other post signaling the event, well before an ambulance normally would arrive.7 If the United States were to create an analogous volunteer-based system, the legal issues outlined above would have to be considered, observed Dobalian. And, Dobalian commented, if social media were to be used for professional emergency response, a number of questions would have to be addressed, such as the following:

• How would requests via social media be validated?

• How would the architecture for such a system resemble and differ from existing 911 telephone systems?

• What levels of staffing and skills would be needed to effectively monitor social media for requests for assistance?

• How would the information available to dispatchers be different from that available to a 911 operator, and what would the implications be for what resources were dispatched and what advance instructions were given?


Observations on privacy and legal issues associated with social media offered by workshop panelists and participants in the discussion that followed the panel session included the following:

• Messages that do not contain a verified identity will often suffice as a source of information when events are being monitored or the public’s response is being assessed, and people may be more comfortable remaining anonymous when their communications are monitored by the government. However, people’s attempts to remain anonymous are complicated because a user’s network may provide clues to his or her identity.

• The distinction between personal identifiable information and other information about people is rapidly eroding as researchers have come to understand that fairly innocuous attributes can pinpoint individuals. Are there other techniques or approaches that can be used to disguise a person’s identity?

• There is a distinction between impersonal trust (trust in institutions) and interpersonal trust (trust in other individuals). During a crisis, trust has interesting dynamics—both impersonal and interpersonal trust can be eroded, or one may serve as a substitute for the other. How are these dynamics altered by the use of social media during a disaster?

• The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released new regulations regarding medical privacy in the aftermath of Hurricane


7 See http://www.hatzalahrl.org/index.php.

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