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You searched for 'japan tsunami' - well, there's one behind you

Google extends emergency alerts - no sign of Godzilla warnings

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Google's public alert system - which splashes warnings across search, maps and Google Now pages - has been extended into Japan nearly a year after it debuted in America.

The red flags aren't limited to just those living in the East Asian nation: anyone searching for things in Japan or looking at its maps on Google will see warnings of earthquakes and imminent tsunamis if necessary. Presumably when Godzilla attacks one will have to rely on Microsoft's Bing or similar instead.

Google Now - a text-driven Apple Siri-like search assistant for Android gadgets - will know if you're in the quake danger zone and alert you accordingly.

The US service, which was launched just over a year ago, provides warnings on forest fires, hurricanes and tornadoes as well as big waves and shaking ground. Google reckons with more than 5,000 earthquakes a year that's the priority disaster for the Japanese, though.

The information comes from the Japan Meteorological Agency but the search giant is open to offers of information from other sources, and provides a useful guide for organisations wanting to contribute.

Most countries have some sort of public alert system, generally hooked into television and radio broadcasting systems. Sometimes they're reliant on other technologies (public speaker systems, chaps on bicycles with hand bells, whatever it takes) but Google reckons the days when one would switch on the TV to see what's happening are past us and the internet is where people turn in a crisis.

Which, given the reliability of information and data connectivity on the internet, is a bit scary. At least Google's Alerts will be backed by the Google brand, and given how roadside signs and TV alerts have proved vulnerable to comedy hackers perhaps the advertising giant is right place to turn. ®

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