Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg talked about the new feature in an interview with the “Good Morning America” television show, noting that the idea for the new set of tools arose when people in disaster areas used Facebook to communicate.
“Just recently when tornados came through Missouri a lot of people were using Facebook to organise and return items that were lost,” Zuckerberg told Robin Roberts on Good Morning America, in a pretaped segment.
Zuckerberg also mentioned that in the wake of the tragic Japanese earthquake in March 2011, Facebook was used to help people find family members.
“So we figured, OK, can we help people do anything that would solve other types of issues, like all of the people who need organ donations,” Zuckerberg said.
The Facebook initiative calls for members to announce as well as update their organ donation status. The donor status will show up along with other data in a Health and Wellness section, which can also include other heath information.
This feature will also offer links to state online donor registries, where people can change their donor status.
Asked whether his friendship with Steve Jobs, who had received a kidney transplant and died last year of pancreatic cancer, had figured into his thinking, Zuckerberg said the Apple founder had been in mind.
“He was a friend and as we were thinking through this I definitely think it was something we all had in mind,” Zuckerberg said.
More than 100,000 people in the U.S. are on lists waiting for organ transplants, and 18 people in the country die every day because they have not received organs in time, according to the ABC report.
“Even if this doesn’t touch everyone I hope it can make an impact,” Zuckerberg said.
Zuckerberg said his girlfriend, Priscilla Chan, who is training to be a pediatrician, encouraged the initiative.
Facebook is offering the new feature in the U.S. and U.K., and has plans to roll it out to other countries.
The television interview yesterday morning included one business-oriented question, about Facebook’s upcoming initial public offering. Noting that Zuckerberg has avoided talking about the company’s business performance while it has been private, Roberts asked how its new status will affect his penchant for reticence on the financial front, and how the change will impact the company culture.
“When you are public there are rules for how you report stuff so we’ll just do that, but the focus of what we do here is not going to change, our goal and the thing we’re going to do is to build great things,” Zuckerberg said.
This is not the first time that Facebook has made a foray into public service. In December, the company launched Lifeline, designed to let people alert Facebook about possible attempts at suicide. Facebook also announced in March an effort to help curb cyberbullying, offering a tool for reporting incidents of intimidation and pressure.