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AMBER Alert Partners With Facebook 205

wiredmikey writes "The AMBER Alert program, credited with the safe recovery of 525 children across the country, has a new ally today: Facebook. Facebook users are able to sign up to receive AMBER Alert bulletins for their state which will be sent to them through the Facebook 'News Feed' feature. An estimated 800,000 children are reported missing every year. AMBER Alert is a voluntary partnership involving law-enforcement agencies and broadcasters. The new Facebook AMBER Alert pages represent an important expansion of the secondary distribution system and will enable AMBER Alerts to dramatically increase the reach of and impact of these life-saving bulletins."
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AMBER Alert Partners With Facebook

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  • Low success rate? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @03:57PM (#34852832)
    525 children in total...when 800000 are reported missing each year? I think this program is going to need more than Facebook...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by devxo ( 1963088 )
      That's still 525 children, and they're exactly doing what they should - increase their exposure, currently via Facebook. But since you seem to have better ideas, do suggest them.
      • Re:Low success rate? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @04:06PM (#34852972)
        I did not say that I had better ideas; however, I am not the only person to point out that the AMBER Alert system is not highly effective: []
        • They did not say that AMBER Alerts are issued for 800,000 children per year. They said that 800,000 children per year are reported missing. Is that number worldwide?

          • by icebike ( 68054 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @04:32PM (#34853382)

            Children include anyone under 18. About 73 million in the US fall into that category.

            Every sullen teenager that runs off and is reported "missing" is not abducted.

            Most of those 800000 come slinking home (or at least report in) months or years later.

            • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @05:00PM (#34853794)
              Wait... so more than 1% of American children are reported missing each year? Why haven't I heard of a single incident of any of the hundreds of kids I know of being reported missing? Your child stands a much higher chance of getting injured riding in the car with it's parents than of being abducted.
              • by icebike ( 68054 )

                Hold on there....

                You are still reading too much into it.

                Being reported missing does not equate to being abducted.

                See this post [] by Amorymeltzer below in this thread.

              • Probably because the same stupid lady reports her stupid kid missing 3 times a week from age 13 to 17 because he comes late, and those 750+ reports show up the same as 750 different children.

            • Children include anyone under 18.

              Yeah, that's what I thought too. Actually, they have to be under 16, or be mentally or physically handicapped, and they must believe the child is in danger.

              Illinois Amber Alert site []

              • However it sounds like the "under 18" part is a requirement of being credited as a "missing child," which plausibly would explain the large numbers of those reported missing, especially in comparison to how many amber alert has recovered.
        • A child predator appears.

          "AMBER, I choose you!"

          AMBER issues an alert.

          It's not very effective.

          What? Poor taste? Oh well.

          What we need is to know how many AMBER alerts were issued to find 525 kids. I'm assuming all 800K cases didn't have alerts.

        • How effective does it need to be? Would saving 1 child be worth the cost, or 10, or 100? Some would argue that if it helps any children at all, it is well worth it. I would argue it is more of an implication of the "many eyes makes all bugs shallow" philosophy of open source. Massively distributed human-based systems like this will probably be used to solve many more problems in the future, consider this to be a test run.
          • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

            Maybe it needs to be better than other uses of the money. If we have the option to save 525 kids lives via these dollars or 1000 kids lives by spending the money on road repairs or after school programs clearly we should be doing one of the latter.

          • I keep saying this - how does this scale?

            what qualifies as being worthy of bothering everyone for this one problem?

            I have a problem - should I broadcast it hoping to find a solution. the problem is VERY important to me - who's to make the determination of whether its worth stopping everyone and their brother.

            adults go missing - why not have alerts for them?

            then eventually, we all just carry around lists of 'missing' people so that we all become unofficial cops.

            yeah, that scales REAL well.

            its too bad that s

      • That's still 525 children, and they're exactly doing what they should - increase their exposure, currently via Facebook. But since you seem to have better ideas, do suggest them.

        My better idea is to take the same effort and focus it on something that will do more good and have fewer negative effects. A good example would be better enforcement of traffic laws near schools when kids are coming in and out of school.

        And yes, I really do believe that things the AMBER Alert have negative effects that are greater than their positive effects. For example, a lot of my kids' friends don't walk. Anywhere. Ever. They don't walk anywhere by themselves, because of the parents' fear that they'

      • How is this insightful? "That's still 525 toilet seats, and even though we paid $50,000 each for them, they're doing exactly what they should - giving me a place to take a dump, which I will then post via Facebook."
    • Re:Low success rate? (Score:5, Informative)

      by orphiuchus ( 1146483 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @04:04PM (#34852940)
      Well, only about 30% of amber alerts are actually strangers, most are custody disputes, and according to wikipedia in 2004 there were only 233 alerts issued. I would write a bunch more stuff about this, but its all straight from wikipedia and you should all just read it yourselves anyway. []
      • The latest alert in this area was for a woman who told a guy to take her child with him when she let him borrow her car (assuming he would return the car with child instead of stealing it). She did not admit this to police until the next day. The incident was held up as an AMBER Alert success.

      • by icebike ( 68054 )

        Is it customary for Amber Alerts to be issued for non-threatening custody Disputes?

        My assumption was they were only issued where there was a threat of harm, or a finding of previous abuse by the non-custody parental abductor.

        • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

          You are correct. One of the tests for an Amber Alert being issued is that "The law enforcement agency believes that the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death".

          • Do you want to be the sheriff that didn't issue the Amber alert because you thought the child wasn't in imminent danger, or do you want to issue the alert "just to be safe"? I don't know the actual percentage of missing children cases that get bumped to Amber status, but I do know that most sheriff's are elected, and most elected officials want to cover their asses at all costs. Would be interesting to know actual percentages, however.

        • Well, the independent research seems to suggest something a little different:


          (Apologies to people who might not be able to access that article because of a paywall)

          The executive summary is that this article does answer your question: a whopping 50% of the AMBER alerts issued in 2004 were cases of non-threatening custody disputes. Other evidence gathered between 2002 and 2006 indicates that AMBER alert was most likely to be successful in cases
          • by icebike ( 68054 )

            Hmmm, thats about what I thought.

            "Least likely to be successful" may well be a statistical artifact of the poisoning of the data by the inclusion of all the custodial dispute cases.

            If Amber Alerts were in fact restricted to the cases it was intend for the successes like Shasta Groene might make up a slightly higher percentage.

            • by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @05:36PM (#34854322)
              Actually, it is not a result of poisoning the data; AMBER alerts almost always fail in cases of children being abducted by people who plan to harm or kill them. The authors basically say that the success rate of AMBER is inflated by the inclusion of custodial cases, and that if those cases are excluded AMBER has a success rate that is nearly 0. AMBER has not actually augmented traditional police techniques in any meaningful way; in cases where traditional investigative methods fail, AMBER fails as well.
              • Re:Low success rate? (Score:4, Informative)

                by icebike ( 68054 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @06:09PM (#34854760)

                Yeah, I get that, but....

                But clearly excluding custodial cases the rate is not zero, (Groene) and it only looks like zero because the system has been swamped with custodial cases.

                Because Amber currently includes all (or a great deal) of the traditional cases, Police end up treating it that way, as do the citizens. So the police response is the same. No augmentation. No checkpoints. No vehicle searches. Its just another Custodial case 98% of the time, and that is exactly how it is treated.

                When these guys did their study, I sincerely doubt they weeded out BUT the cases where Amber Alerts were issued in a timely manner, given the originally intended response, escalated in a logical way, and in response to a prove threat level. (Like Groene, Sarah Maynard, etc).

                They just did a statistical abstraction of cases where police acted in the normal way using the normal assumptions.

                If we dialed it back to original intent, the rate might be better yet.

              • lets face it - its a "feel good" thing for parents.

                it may or may not do any direct good; but just like our security theater, its the appearance that something is being done, that counts.

                go figure (?)

                I don't like security theater and I don't like this inflated importance that we give kids. the world does not revolve around them.

      • I wouldn't even be surprised if 30% was too high.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by MightyYar ( 622222 )

      I think this program is going to need more than Facebook...

      They should partner with Slashdot - over 90% of abducted children end up in the basement of a someone who is socially awkward.

    • most of the 800,000 are simply misplaced or temporary. Amber Alerts are used for Child Abduction, mostly, where a hostile kidnapping has taken place.

      Most missing kids don't get Amber Alerts issued.

    • I don't want to speak for the children, I bet they will say 525 kids is better than 0.

    • Well, even one or two more would worth the effort.

      What really amazed me is the number of children reported missing each year.

    • Re:Low success rate? (Score:5, Informative)

      by icebike ( 68054 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @04:27PM (#34853322)

      800000 "children reported missing" includes anyone under the age of 18 who runs away. (This is about 1% of the Children in the US in the 0 thru 17 age group).

      Amber Alerts are specifically for kidnapped or abducted children usually less than 16.

      An Amber alert will not be issued for your 14 yro daughter when she runs off with that creep she met on line.

      Its not the same thing.

      • Re:Low success rate? (Score:4, Informative)

        by MobileTatsu-NJG ( 946591 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @04:49PM (#34853606)

        800000 "children reported missing" includes anyone under the age of 18 who runs away. (This is about 1% of the Children in the US in the 0 thru 17 age group).

        Amber Alerts are specifically for kidnapped or abducted children usually less than 16.

        An Amber alert will not be issued for your 14 yro daughter when she runs off with that creep she met on line.

        Its not the same thing.

        Nicely said, I just wanted to add one more little detail that whittles the numbers down a little more: The point of the Amber Alert is "this just happened, they're out and about right now, do you see them?" It's about getting the general public, mostly people on highways, to look around and see if they see the suspect vehicle.

  • Refreshing to see when tech is being used for good. I'm not a big fan of Facebook, but this elevates my opinion of the legitimate use of the website.
    • Well FB also has the "hacker" cup, which is more of just a programming tournament where you provide all of your information from person phone number down to your home address. I mean, for a "hacker" cup, giving FB all of your personal information has got to give you another legitimate use of the site
    • Really? This lowers my opinion of FB, difficult as that is at this point. There is nothing good about partnering with a system that barely does anything, wastes money, and adds to America's culture of fear and paranoia.

  • by Minwee ( 522556 ) <> on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @04:06PM (#34852980) Homepage
    Once phase one is complete and AMBER alert bulletins are being sent via facebook they will be able to move on to phase two, where every bulletin will trigger the creation of a "Bring Back (name here)" group and send an invitation to everyone else in the world to join it.
  • Not again! (Score:2, Funny)

    by dr_dank ( 472072 )

    "My grandmother used to think the Amber alert was the same girl. Every time we pass it: 'oye hijo a la chingada Amber got into another car today....'" - George Lopez

  • An Amber Alert browser add-on for Firefox would be able to alert Firefox users no matter what website they're using.

  • by countSudoku() ( 1047544 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @04:38PM (#34853462) Homepage

    You can get SMS messages Amber Alerts already from: []

    Having to login to facebook is a waste of time, when you can get the same info from roadside display systems, or via free SMS. It's nice the FB is participating, of course (good for them), but this info is already available in a better to digest system, without the FB GUI getting in the way.

    • Assuming you use SMS (I don't, quite a few of the older people I know don't but do use Facebook), or are on the road where a sign happens to be (all three of them in my county, precisely none anywhere I normally drive)...

      Putting them on Facebook (which I'm already logged in on) in a GUI I already use (and is thuse hardly 'in the way') isn't a waste of time, it's a good thing. (Or, less charitably, don't use a good thing as a springboard for a rant against Facebook.)

  • by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @04:40PM (#34853490)
    Most of these 800,000 are children who move across state lines with a divorced parent. The root problem is that the courts award children to the wrong parent - almost always the mother. Frequently, the mother is the cause of the whole problem and the children do not want to live with her.
  • And they said literacy was dead.
  • Amber Alerts: Corwin (Score:4, Interesting)

    by aapold ( 753705 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @04:50PM (#34853616) Homepage Journal
    Corwin was last seen after the patternfall war heading for a social function in the Courts of Chaos. He was wearing his typical black and silver garb with a rose boorch, and his blade Grayswandir. If you have any information on his whereabouts please contact Random.

    Caine - Caine was last seen walking down a street in Kashfa, heading to a coffee shop. He was wearing black and green, with a rakish hat and feather, and had his jeweled daggers. Note - he has been known to fake dissappearances before.

    Fiona - Fiona was last seen in Amber the night Merlin returned, at the main dinner. There are unconfirmed reports that she was later seen at a nightclub in rural upstate New York, and stole a small sedan from a parking lot there. She was wearing a green and lavender dress.

    Bleys - Bleys has also been missing since the night Fiona vanished in Amber, they may have left together. Since there a man matching his description was seen on security camera footage selling several expensive rings in a pawn shop in Las Vegas. He was wearing a snazzy red and orange blazer.
  • Just a lame excuse for Facebook to track YOUR location. Don't fall for it. An Amber alert near you "needs" to know where you are.
  • When I saw the title in my feed, I immediately wondered how much of a pain in the ass this would be for me, getting Amber alerts for the US while I'm in Canada, given FB's track record of implementations.

    Honestly surprised and pleased that it's a subscription thing, although it just being yet another app you can subscribe to makes me wonder why it's /. newsworthy.

  • If we were to take that number seriously, it would mean that at least 1 in 7 people experience a kidnapping during their childhood. When you're coming up with statistics to support a position, please make at least a vague attempt to use a relevant statistic instead of some random trumped up value that sounds good?

    I would like to know the actual number of children kidnapped per year in the US. It would be an interesting statistic and highly relevant to the announcement they made.

    • by PRMan ( 959735 )
      I know thousands of people, but only know a few that had a custody dispute or ran away for a while or something that could even be construed as this, maybe 10 or so.
  • I submitted a story about Crimestoppers [] having a Facebook page! I can't believe the Eds didn't run it!

    They also didn't run my story about Block Parents having a FB page, or Neighbourhood Watch, or Big Sisters!
  • by Krishnoid ( 984597 ) * on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @06:48PM (#34855228) Journal
    Even when a kid is ostensibly being abducted by a stranger, a lot of people won't respond []. So I wonder how AMBER could be made more effective to compensate for this effect (assuming it's real).
  • How can in a country with 300 million inhabitants every year 800,000 children be reported missing?
    300 years and every child is gone ... 100 years and a 1/3rd of all children is gone, 10 years and every 30ths ... that is more than 3 of 100 is gone.
    Hello .... that is bullshit.


In English, every word can be verbed. Would that it were so in our programming languages.