According to Facebook, there are over 500 million users of the site worldwide.Wikipedia reports indicate that almost 50% of the U.S. population now has a Facebook account. Facebook is a part of everyday life for many. Could these statistical users also include missing and wanted persons?
Eventually, those sought by law enforcement begin feeling a sense of security. When was the last time a police officer inquired about them? When was the last article printed in the local newspaper? Like most of us, they go to the grocery store every week, receive a paycheck from an employer, start new friendships. Normal life.
So, why would it be a far stretch to think some of these people may create a Facebook profile? Perhaps, they are not familiar with the many privacy settings that Facebook has to offer. This easily makes them vulnerable to being discovered. All it takes is a little initiative, knowledge and patience to find them. Depending on which, if any, privacy settings are enabled for a user profile, there is a wealth of knowledge to be had about a person on Facebook. Information such as; geographical location, current photos, circle of friends, family members, work and schooling.
I have put this idea to the test. As the founder of a missing and unidentified persons website, I have taken the time to research many individuals. I’ve been successful at finding some of these people and shared information with the appropriate agencies.
Imagine this scenario. A 15-year-old girl leaves home because her parents don’t give her enough freedom. She starts couch-surfing at friends’ houses. Meanwhile, her parents are quite put out with her. Maybe mom and dad feel obligated to report the incident, but don’t hassle the police much to track her down since they figure she’ll come back, if and when she wants to. Time marches on; the teen becomes a legal adult.
The young woman now lives in a different city, works a decent job, and has made many friends along the way. She probably doesn’t give much thought to being a missing person. She’s merely a name in a filing cabinet and a photo on a missing persons website, if that. She continues living her life and at some point, starts a Facebook account to connect with friends and co-workers. All it takes is someone who takes an interest in missing persons cases, simply entering her name into a search bar and voila! The person then calls a missing persons hotline and almost instantly, the case is ‘‹Å”solved’.
Now take that same scenario and expand it a bit further. Include young children who were taken to another state by their non-custodial parent long ago or a teenager who’s wanted for robbing the corner store awhile back. Criminals who haven’t been caught often start feeling invincible over time. People get careless after so long and the door to resolving cases opens. One day, Facebook may become a common investigative tool utilized by law enforcement in order to do just that.