Facebook Introduces Wide-Reaching Amber Alert Feature

amber_alertThough many users and digital security experts are often dismayed by Facebook’s Big Brother-like tendency to gather user information, the site’s massive reach can also have big benefits. For example, Facebook used its power for good this week when it partnered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to broadcast Amber Alerts on the site in specific areas where a child is missing.

The new Facebook feature will post a missing child’s information, including name, picture and physical descriptors, to users in the search area. Users will also be able to share the alert with their friends, expanding the reach of the search even further.

“This puts a missing child immediately… right on someone’s cell phone or laptop,” John Walsh, the co-founder of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, told ABC News. “The media is a huge tool. But now we have a powerful social networking platform that can let people know immediately. It is a fantastic way to use social networking for good.”

According to Emily Vacher, the trust and safety manager for Facebook security, many people have long used Facebook as a tool for spreading information on missing people, and the site was inspired by this to form the partnership.
While there are many legitimate gripes about Facebook’s thirst for information and seeming lack of regard for user privacy, there’s no doubt that this kind of broad public service feature is a huge positive both for Facebook and communities across the country.