FBI releases new iPhone app for identifying missing children
Parents enthusiastic about FBI Child ID app but also ask for additional features
- By Alice Lipowicz
- Aug 08, 2011
The FBI has released its first mobile application, the FBI Child ID
App for iPhone, designed to help locate and identify missing children.
Early responses from parents are enthusiastic, but they also suggest the
application could be missing an important feature.
The free FBI Child ID
application made available Aug. 5 on iTunes allows parents to store
their children’s electronic photographs and vital statistics, such as
name, height and weight, and to display the photos and information on
the device as a quick reference available to security or police
officers. It also allows for e-mailing the information to authorities.
It also has a button for calling 911 for emergency assistance.
FBI officials said the goal was to enable parents to quickly provide
descriptive and identifying information to help in a search for missing
“You're shopping at the mall with your children when one of them
suddenly disappears. A quick search of the nearby area is unsuccessful.
What do you do? Now there's a free new tool from the FBI that can help,”
the FBI said.
Parents and other users give the app good reviews, but the majority
of the comments on the iTunes store to date suggest that users are
uncomfortable with entering sensitive personal information about their
children in their mobile devices without password protection. At least
three users have requested that the bureau add a password-protection
feature to safeguard the sensitive personal information stored on the
“This seems like a great app and is a good idea, but one huge thing is
missing: The app isn't password protected," a parent commented on the iTunes website. "So if someone steals my
phone they have easy access to all my kids' data, including nicknames and
where we live."
“Good idea. Won’t use until they lock it down,” came from another user.
Another user suggested that children may be tempted to use the
application to call 911 if there is no access limitation.
“Password-protecting it will prevent someone (a child perhaps) from
being tempted to press the big red button to call 911,” another
FBI officials were not immediately available to comment.
The FBI Child ID application also includes safety tips and guidelines for what to do in the first hours a child is missing.
The FBI is publicizing the new application with the American Football
Coaches Association, which partners with the FBI in the National
Child Identification Program. The program provides kits to parents to
gather children’s photographs, fingerprints, physical characteristics
and even DNA in case of an emergency.
The FBI said it is exploring whether to expand the application to other types of mobile devices in the near future.
Neither the FBI nor iTunes collects or
stores any of the photographs or information entered into the
Child ID application, the FBI said.
“All data resides solely on your mobile device unless you need to
send it to authorities,” the agency said. It also recommended that users
check their mobile providers' terms of service regarding the security
of the data stored on the device.
Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.