Facebook adds Amber alerts to find missing kids (podcast)

Facebook has teamed up with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and the U.S. Justice Department to bring Amber alerts to the social-networking site.

Larry Magid
Larry Magid is a technology journalist and an Internet safety advocate. He's been writing and speaking about Internet safety since he wrote Internet safety guide "Child Safety on the Information Highway" in 1994. He is co-director of ConnectSafely.org, founder of SafeKids.com and SafeTeens.com, and a board member of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Larry's technology analysis and commentary can be heard on CBS News and CBS affiliates, and read on CBSNews.com. He also writes a personal-tech column for the San Jose Mercury News. You can e-mail Larry.
Larry Magid
2 min read

In many communities throughout the country, when a child goes missing you may hear about it on the radio or see a notice on an illuminated highway sign. You might also get a text message if you're signed up to receive one. AOL, Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft also disseminate Amber alerts. Now you can receive them on Facebook.

The Amber alert program, which was established 15 years ago after the abduction and murder of its namesake, 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, has so far resulted in the recovery of 525 kids according to Ernie Allen, CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

You can sign up to receive Amber alerts on Facebook by clicking the Like button on the page for your state. Facebook

The program will be opt-in and you will only get alerts about children missing in your state or other states you designate. Also, according to Allen, Amber alerts are only used for the most serious cases, where local law enforcement believes the child is in immediate danger and where there is good descriptive information that people can look for, such as an automobile and license plate. Fortunately, these alerts are rare.

To sign-up for Amber alerts on Facebook go to Facebook.com/AMBERAlert, pick your state, and click the Like button at the top. You can also add that page to your favorites and suggest it to your friends. At any time, you can visit your state's page by adding your state's initials to the URL such as Facebook.com/AmberAlertNY.

Ernie Allen, CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children NCMEC.org

Amber alerts for your state will show up in your news feed along with all the other items, but if you have a lot of Facebook friends you might miss them if you're not looking.

"It doesn't get priority over other feeds," said Facebook's Washington, D.C., policy staffer Adam Conner but, he added, "the hope is it will be so important that people will share it immediately and it will see a full viral effect."

Allen agrees. "One of our hopes is that because Facebook is so viral and there is such an opportunity for people to mobilize and communicate with their friends that very quickly this information can reach a huge number of people and bring more kids home."

Disclosures: I serve without pay on the board of directors of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and am co-director of ConnectSafely.org which receives financial support from Facebook. 

For more, click below to listen to my eight-minute interview with NCMEC CEO Ernie Allen


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