An investigation by BBC Newsnight has revealed that Google’s earthquake warning system failed to reach many Turkish residents before a deadly earthquake hit in February. The system is designed to give users up to a minute’s notice on their phones before an earthquake strikes, but the BBC found that no one they spoke to in three cities in the earthquake zone had received a warning. The earthquake, which occurred in February, resulted in more than 50,000 fatalities.

Google’s Android Earthquake Alert System, which works on Android phones, utilizes the phones’ accelerometers to detect shaking and can send warnings when an earthquake of magnitude 4.5 or greater is detected. Google claims that the system successfully sent alerts to millions of people before the first major quake, but the investigation raised doubts about the widespread reception of these alerts.

The BBC’s report highlights the importance of transparency and accountability when delivering essential life safety information. Experts and residents alike questioned why Google’s system did not seem to work effectively during a major earthquake, one of the largest in the last 100 years. While Google’s product lead on the system, Micah Berman, asserted that the system had worked, the company did not provide evidence to substantiate the widespread receipt of alerts.

Critics argue that the failure of the warning system raises concerns about its reliability and effectiveness in safeguarding lives during such disasters. Google’s system has been operational in dozens of countries globally, but the incident in Turkey highlights the need for further scrutiny and transparency to ensure that warning systems can deliver on their promise of providing timely and life-saving alerts.