SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) – A child goes missing and the entire community is instantly in a state of emergency. When the word goes out, will you get it in time? A new company claims to have the answer to that question, with a high-tech system touted as being better than Amber Alert. Why, then, are authorities skeptical of it?
It’s called Add The Alert. It’s a computer application you can download to your phone or computer, free of charge. Its makers claim it will immediately alert you when a Utah child is missing with specific, localized information on the case.
The application is built by a Scottsdale, Arizona company called The Boloto Group. Company executives say they donated the technology to an organization called Help Find Kids.
"If there's a child missing in your area,” says Bob Donnelli of Add The Alert, “a little alert box displays. Click on the alert box and there you'll have the complete details of the missing child."
On the internet and on television the company has been getting positive press across the country for its compelling message.
“If you add the alert button to your computer, to your mobile phone then you're actually doing something about this issue," Donnelli told a Los Angeles reporter in a clip featured on his company’s website.
Why, then, are authorities in Utah and Arizona concerned about it?
"Because everything is already in place,” says Paul Murphy, Communications Director for the Utah Attorney General’s office and Coordinator of the state’s Amber Alert system. “There are ways to get e-mail, text messages and about a hundred different ways to get an Amber Alert, and all of them are through legitimate source. I'm very concerned about any company who claims that they can do it faster or any better."
Utah's amber alert coordinator says he spends a lot of time and energy trying to prevent private companies from profiting from Amber Alert.
"More than 500 children have been saved and so a lot of people want to cash in on that good will. They're either collecting or claiming to collect donations on behalf of the Amber Alert program but we're not seeing a dime of it."
The Add The Alert application can be downloaded free of charge. Executives answer the question of whether they’re making money from the enterprise this way:
“There is absolutely zero commerce attached to it."
And when ABC 4 asked Donnelli about the possibility the company is “fishing” or “data mining” people who download the app, he said he hired a leading software security company to investigate the app and determine whether it is secure.
“We just received security certification today,” he said. “We can guarantee this app does not allow anyone to gain personal information from anyone who downloads it.”
The Utah Attorney General’s office has collected no complaints about Add The App nor is the office investigating the non-profit company or the software provider, The Boloto Group of Scottsdale, Arizona. But Murphy says he’s skeptical of any and all organizations that use the Amber Alert name without permission.
"They're not helping the amber alert programs and as far as I know they're not helping anyone find missing children."
The Arizona Attorney General's office is concerned the company may be using the application to "fish" or "data mine" the people who download the application. They’re asking ABC 4 to warn anyone who downloads Add The App to watch for an increase in spam mail. That, says the Arizona A.G.’s Public Information Officer Mika Marquart, is a signal the company may have sold a downloader’s personal information. In that case, the company would be guilty of profiting from the Amber Alert system.
The Arizona A.G. wants anyone who suspects they’ve been fished or data mined to contact their office and file a complaint at:
Simply go to the left side of the home page, click on “Complaint” and follow the prompts.
Utah’s Amber Alert offers a free application that immediately notifies citizens in the event of a missing child. If you want to download Utah Amber Alert app click on either of the links below: