Social media tools are amazing, and empower so many people. I have no doubt that at this moment there are dozens of efforts underway to help people suffering from Hurricane Gustav. Blogs, Ning communities, Twitter accounts, you name it.
So here’s the disclaimer. Before you give ANY personal information to ANYONE on the internet, do your due diligence:
- Who owns the account or site with which you are interacting?
- How long have they been involved in disaster relief or recovery?
- What kind of reputation do they have?
- What kind of information are they asking for?
- Do they know anything about data security?
There are many, many well-intentioned efforts. But all it takes is one or two enterprising scammers to create a free and untraceable account on a Social Network to wreak havoc and take advantage of internet trust.
Don’t allow desperation to make you a victim.
And in the future, make sure you have a robust communication plan for friends and family. Do your investigation of those channels before the storm strikes. David Stephenson has some excellent advice on how to use new media and personal tech to communicate during disasters. Of course, my former colleages at the American Red Cross are in the space as well, with an official newsroom on WordPress and accounts for news and family disaster inquiry on Twitter. There’s also a nice Ning community up.
Just use your head.
[tags]Ike Pigott, Occam’s RazR, disaster, disaster communications, Ning, American Red Cross, Twitter, WordPress, David Stephenson[/tags]