We recently wrote about Medium's Ghost Boat project, a crowdsourced effort to track down a missing refugee boat. The investigation's momentum slowed in recent months but as of April, there's been a new development.
The team behind Ghost Boat teamed with the website Tomnod, a site that crowdsources satellite searches. What exactly does this entail? Well, remember when the University of California, San Diego used satellite imagery and a team of volunteers to try to track down Genghis Khan's tomb? Tomnod is kind of like that. They take satellite images and give them to random volunteers who can then search the pictures to try to find something that stands out -- in this case, evidence of a boat wreck. Now anyone can help the Ghost Boat investigation track down 243 missing refugees by looking at a few images.
Tomnod has tons of other campaigns users can volunteer to help as well. One involves tagging construction sites across Northern California. Previously, Tomnod concentrated its efforts on earthquake relief in Chile and Nepal. The technology seems to be relatively young, but in the future, who knows what a service like Tomnod might be used for? Of course, there are downsides: satellite imagery makes it easier to do some Big Brother-level spying and of course aids military efforts. But governments already use satellite imagery for those types of things, so why not use it ourselves to do some good?