Many missing people have nobody looking for them. I am Rob Sell, a search and rescue tracker, cybersecurity professional, and founder of TraceLabs.org, where volunteers compete to find clues to the whereabouts of missing people. AMA!
Hi Reddit! I'm Robert Sell, an information-security professional and 10 year volunteer with Coquitlam Search & Rescue (SAR) in British Columbia, Canada where I specialize in tracking lost persons in the back country. This experience has allowed me to see first hand the impact missing persons has on society.
To put it in perspective: every day, over 2,500 Americans are reported missing. This includes both children and adults. This does not include Americans who have vanished in other countries, individuals who disappear and are never reported, or the homeless and their children.
In most jurisdictions, missing persons cases receive low priority. Authorities are already working homicides, robberies, rapes, assaults, traffic issues, and crime prevention.
In response to the lack of urgency, priority, and lack available resources to investigate these cases, I founded TraceLabs.org.
Trace Labs brings together computer experts and online sleuths to find clues to the whereabouts of missing people. We do this by hosting "Capture the Flag" style competitions at security conferences around the world like DEFCON and BSIDES, and through ongoing daily operations online.
Volunteers track down relevant publicly available information (otherwise known as Open Source Intelligence, or OSINT) for missing persons cases where the police have asked the public for help. We then turn over any information found to the police to aid in the investigations.
A recent Freethink video documenting our work has now been viewed over 3 million times: https://www.freethink.com/videos/online-hackers-hunt-down-missing-people
If you would like to volunteer, head to https://www.tracelabs.org/getinvolved/ to get started.
In the meantime - ask me anything!
Thanks all for your great questions! Signing off for now, will circle back to answer any new questions tomorrow so keep asking away.