Facebook joins hunt for missing kids with Amber Alerts

Facebook will send alerts on users' news feeds

In an effort to find missing children faster, Facebook will deliver Amber Alerts to its users.

Facebook users in all 50 U.S. states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands can now sign up to receive Amber Alerts for their state as part of their news feed.

With the new service, which went into effect on Wednesday, users will also be able to share the alerts with their Facebook friends.

"Everyone at Facebook feels a responsibility to help protect children and, as a former federal prosecutor and a father of two, I am particularly proud that we are now part of the Amber Alert program," said Chris Sonderby, Lead Security and Investigations Counsel at Facebook.

"We are hopeful that today's announcement offers these dedicated officials another useful tool to find and safely recover abducted children," Sonderby said.

The announcement came on Wednesday during a joint press conference with Facebook, the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

The news also came out the day before the 15th anniversary of the abduction and murder of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who became the namesake of the national Amber Alert Program.

By teaming up with Facebook, which surpassed Google as the most visited Web site in the U.S. in 2010 , the Amber Alert program has the potential to reach a very large audience. Last July, Facebook announced that it had a worldwide user base of half a billion people .

"That's a nice thing FaceBook is doing," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research. "It has some potential. It's probably not that great on short-term emergencies, but a lot of people spend a lot of time with Facebook. Certainly more than looked at the back of milk cartons, back in the day."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com .

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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