Mar 4, 2015 · 1 minute

It's important for AMBER Alerts to reach as many people as possible. A study found that 74 percent of children who die after being abducted are killed within three hours. Looking out for these children could mean the difference between finding them alive or dead.

That's what makes things like Waze's announcement that it will display AMBER Alerts in its navigation app so important. Could it be an effort to draw attention from allegations that wannabe cop-killers might use Waze to find their victims? Sure. But it might also help return missing children to their caregivers.

Waze is just one of several companies to have added AMBER Alerts to its product. Facebook added them to its News Feed. Apple made them override a device's notification settings. Google inserted them into its Search and Maps products. The list goes on.

Perhaps the most important thing about these companies supporting AMBER Alerts is that they do so without intruding on their users' lives. Receiving these alerts can be scary, as Pando alum Carmel DeAmicis explained after California's first mobile alert was sent:

The LA Times later reported that Californians were angry and confused about the Amber Alert, scared by an alarming phone notification they didn’t know they had. The reaction mirrors New Yorkers’ response a few weeks ago, when the first New York City mobile Amber Alert woke people up at 4 in the morning. The missing 7-month-old boy was quickly found, and the event launched a discussion about whether WEAs impeded people’s privacy.
Facebook, Waze, and Google are working to make sure these alerts don't elicit that reaction. Facebook merely adds them to the top of its News Feed; Waze has promised only to display them when a vehicle is stopped; and Google's look like other informatory cards.

What's to complain about with those features? They aren't shrill notifications that can be sent late at night or in the early morning. They're nonintrusive morsels of information that simply make sure word about a missing child reaches someone who can help.

[photo by Robert Couse-Baker]