Facebook App Scans For Sex Offenders
Updated: Tuesday, August 19 2014, 09:42 AM CDT
How would you feel if you found out your kid was chatting online with a registered sex offender? Like many things, there's an app for that.
Social media allows us to connect with family, friends and strangers.
"Not everybody has good intentions," said Springfield Deputy Police Chief Dan Mounce.
Fifteen-year old Alayna Sevener says a lot of teenagers compete over who has more Facebook friends.
"The majority of my friend requests are form random people I have no idea who they are... a lot of teenage girls think it's okay to talk to whoever," Alayna said.
Now there's an app called Friend Verifier that scans your Facebook friends and friend requests and matches their info to the national sex offender registry.
Here's how it works: a yellow match is nothing to necessarily worry about; it just means a name matches a name in the database. Orange means a name and location match; red means name, location and date of birth match; although not every Facebook user provides all of that information.
The CEO and Founder of Verify Anybody, Joe Penora, said, "We utilize public data and we utilize Facebook user supplied data and we can't guarantee every record, but Friend Verifier has the potential to not only save someone's life scanning for a sex offender, it's just an important tool for parents to educate their kids."
Alayna scanned her Facebook friends and some of their names matched names in the national sex offender database.
"That's crazy," she said.
So far, Friend Verifier has scanned more than nine-million people.
Sam Sevener, Alayna's father, said, "It's important to have tools like this app to see who's out there and to protect our kids against them."
Through the app, our reporter Liz Foster found out one of the thousands of people who friend requested her professional facebook is listed as a sexual offender.
However, the app is not foolproof.
"We know that from the past, people use different names, different pictures and so forth to get access to people, including children online, to befriend them and gain their confidence," Deputy Chief Mounce said. "Unfortunately sometimes that leads to physical meetings and criminal acts."
That's why police stress the importance of parents monitoring who their kids talk to online; make sure they don't communicate with anyone they don't actually know; and teach them about potential dangers.
Penora said the company has plans in the works to expand the app to LinkedIn and Twitter. Friend Verifier is free. The company plans to launch a service in the next few months that allows users to run an actual background search on a Facebook friend for a fee.
For a link to Friend Verifier's website, click here.
For a link to Friend Verifier's Facebook page, click here.