Posters & Social Media
If you are having posters made up featuring the missing person, it is strongly advised to only display Garda or the Helpline contact number, not your own private or mobile phone numbers.
Consider displaying posters in areas such as shopping centres, bus stops and railway stations, at local sporting and entertainment venues and community centres. Do keep in mind that the putting up of posters on electricity poles etc. will be considered as “littering” and you may be asked to remove them. It is important that all posters are removed when no longer relevant i.e. when the person is located.
Social Media is an invaluable tool when raising awareness for a missing loved one. Unfortunately, it can also be a dangerous place where trolls and predators are able to anonymously prey on vulnerabilities, making their target susceptible to Press and public intrusion. Always stay safe online and remember that shared information can often be in circulation for many years after the person is found or located and thereby lead to further privacy issues.
Facebook is a great way to communicate with lots of different people around the world and get in contact with anyone who may be connected to your missing loved one. However, it can also be a great place for online trolls to take your personal photographs and send messages that may not be so supportive, especially if your loved one’s case has escalated quickly. This can all become quite overwhelming, so ensure you take time to follow Facebook guidelines to stay safe and secure.
In particular, it is recommended that you set your profile to ‘friends only’ and disable the feature for search engines to harvest your account. It is important that personal details such as your phone number, address etc., are secure and should ideally be set to ‘yourself only’. Personal photographs are frequently used by the media if they are not restricted to friends only. To prevent being bombarded with friend requests by people you do not know in person, set the ‘who can send you friend requests’ feature to ‘friends of friends’ only.
The National Missing Persons Helpline will happily post details of all Garda Missing Persons Alerts to our Facebook page Missing Persons Helpline Ireland – please note however, that we are precluded under Privacy Legislation, from posting any details which are not first made public by Gardai. It is therefore vital that a report is made to Gardai as soon as possible and that when making the report, if you are next of kin, that permission is given to issue a public appeal.
Twitter is also an incredible way to raise awareness for a missing loved one, getting missing appeals shared means the face of the missing person can appear in the feeds of people across the world. But, just like Facebook, it can leave you open to vicious comments from trolls.
Twitter offers other security options in the Security and Privacy settings. You can select the Tweet Privacy option to limit who receives your tweets rather than just making them all public. You can also select the Photo tagging option to allow anyone to tag you in photos. Also, deselect the options that let others find you by your email address or phone number. You can also deselect the ability to receive Direct Messages in this section.
Given that Twitter seems to be more public than Facebook, it’s wise to keep the personal details in your Twitter profile to a minimum. Leave out your phone numbers, email addresses, and other bits of personal data that might be ripe for harvest by SPAM bots and internet criminals.
Twitter features the option to add your location to each tweet. While this might be a useful feature for some, it can be a big security risk for others. You may want to take this feature off to avoid anyone finding out where you live.