Broward News

Amber Alerts, Myah, and Your Mobile Phone

​Last Friday afternoon, Myah Knighton-Black went missing from Riviera Beach. On Sunday, police reached out to local media to say that the missing 14-year-old could be in Miami-Dade County. As of this writing the girl has not yet been found.  Still, the case provides an example for how the Amber Alert system works via mobile phone.

Coordinated by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the Amber Alert system is responsible for all of those highway signs, television and radio broadcasts alerting the public to children gone missing. It takes some serious tech.

There are a few of those regional signs on I-95. They're controlled by regional action centers that the NCMEC uses so that alerts can be sent where they can be seen by the driving public quickly.

That is the most visible of the Amber Alert technology. Behind that, however, is a lot more. When Myah was reported missing, for instance, alerts were sent to cell phones all over South Florida to anyone who's signed up to receive Amber Alert text messages. These same alerts were also sent to those who've loaded the iPhone app onto their phones. The iPhone app was created by a well-known hacker-turned iPhone app developer, Jonathan Zdziarksy.

Those who follow the NCMEC on Twitter, Facebook and other social networking venues also received an alert. All within a few minutes of Myah being reported missing Friday afternoon. 

On Sunday, new alerts were issued with more information, including the possibility that she could be in the Miami-Dade County area and with local police contact information for anyone who has a tip on her whereabouts. 

Although Myah has not yet been found, at least 40 children were located in 2009 thanks to the technology behind Amber Alert and many more missing children cases were solved as well.  

NCMEC's technology is not necessarily new -- or even that innovative -- but it's being focused for a good cause and is coordinated in such a way that it successfully combines many disparate techs into one network of outreach. For all the perceived evils of social media, it's worth remembering that this technology can also help bring about a world of good in cases like Myah's.

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Craig Agranoff