Facebook wants to make it easier for blood banks to find donors. The world's largest social network said Wednesday it's rolling out a tool in the US that allows users to sign up to be a blood donor and receive notifications if a nearby blood bank needs help.
The feature was introduced in 2017 but released first in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Brazil. Now Facebook is rolling out its blood donation tool in the US today, starting in Chicago, New York City, San Francisco Bay Area, Baltimore and Washington, DC. The feature will be available nationwide in the coming months.
The move highlights how Facebook is trying to show it's a force for good even as it grapples with a seemingly endless list of scandals including around user privacy.
Hema Budaraju, Facebook's director of product for health, said that many people aren't aware if an area has a blood shortage or when, where and how to donate. The social network wants to raise awareness while making it more convenient for people to donate blood.
"Blood donor recruitment is not a specific challenge for certain countries, it's an universal problem," she said.
Every two seconds, someone in the US needs blood, and one donation can save up to 3 lives, according to the American Red Cross. About 6.8 million people in the US donate blood every year.
Here's how Facebook's blood donation feature works: if you're between the ages of 18 and 65, you can sign up to be a blood donor by visiting the About section of your profile and clicking on details about you. Once you scroll down, there's an option to learn about becoming a blood donor on Facebook, and once you click that you can sign up.
Facebook said it won't share your information with blood banks, hospitals or any other parties unless you decide to share it. Blood banks can request donations and notify people nearby who have signed up. The blood donation center that makes the request won't receive any information about you, according to Facebook's Help Center.
The social network decided to release the tool first abroad in four countries because Facebook noticed that a lot of people in those areas were using the social network to find blood donors. But in India, some public health officials raised concerns that the tool could fuel a black market for blood, according to Business Insider.
Budaraju said Facebook received only a "handful" of reports about this and the company doesn't think it's a problem.
The company found that its efforts to increase blood donations is working. About 20% of people surveyed by blood banks in India and Brazil that partnered with Facebook said the social network influenced their decision to give blood. Facebook is working with various blood banks in the US including the American Red Cross, New York Blood Center, and the Stanford Blood Center.