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August 9, 2011
Crisis-Mapping With Good Guys and Bad
 
This is somewhat removed from day-to-day public relations, or even crisis communication in the context of natural disasters. But crisis-mapping via the Web is, indeed, a new form of media and we thought you should have insight into what might occur if a crisis setting is a politically hostile one, meaning that the bad guys might get upset. 

Crisis-mapping, George Chamales, a hacker and technical activist tells MIT's Technology Review, is highly useful during natural disorders, like the 2010 Haitian earthquake (where it apparently was first used) or the Japanese tsunami earlier this year. Crisis mapping can be a great asset as people in disaster areas provide real-time information via mobile phones and other devices. But it was also deployed in the recent wave of protests in the Middle East. "The problem is," says Chamales, "that natural disasters don't shoot back."

So far, advises Erica Naone on the Technology Review post, "there have been no recorded incidents of a crisis mapping tool being misused or attacked by a political enemy, but this could soon change." Suppose, for example, you had foreign aid workers helping with flood relief in a politically tense area, "And there we were building a giant map showing exactly where those workers would be," Chamales notes.

As communication tools become more intimate, this post is a fascinating discussion of what might go wrong. We certainly hope that can be avoided.

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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