News

Mollie Tibbetts’ father begs for technology companies to help him find his daughter

close


Video

Mollie Tibbetts’ father potential abductors: Let her go

Robert Tibbetts says authorities are ‘very motivated’ in his search for his missing daughter, and urges the possible kidnapper didn’t escalate or drag out the trial.

BROOKLYN, IOWA – the college sophomore Mollie Tibbetts was last seen jogging in her small town of Brooklyn, Iowa on July 18, the avid runner was wearing a Fitbit to track her distances.

Her father, Rob Tibbetts, is of the opinion that the small group that she wore around her wrist would be able to provide important insights to her whereabouts that day. Her last known communication was a Snapchat she sent her boyfriend.

The university of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts, 20, was last seen on an evening jog on July 18.

(Fox News)

It is unclear whether Fitbit and Snapchat have sent information to the authorities to help find her. Neither responded to requests for comment.

Technology plays an important role on how a missing person is located, particularly as more and more people rely on devices to go about their day. But Tibbets case highlights how these crucial tools have also their limits.

Tibbetts, like many students, used platforms such as Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and a host of electronic devices that make use of GPS locators, or Geotags, which can help users find a wide range of location-specific information from a device.

But the retrieval of information from social media sites and tech companies is not always easy – the companies are not legally obliged to do this. To do this, some believe, undermines the privacy of their users. That has led to a back-and-forth battles between tech companies data protection and law enforcement officials desperate to solve cases.

Search crews have scoured areas around Brooklyn, Iowa, where Tibbetts lived, and now have called in extra manpower to sift by means of electronic data from social media accounts, and a physical activity tracker to help them in the quest.

(Fox News)

“[Mollie] was 20 years old, she lived on those platforms. Everyone knows she was constantly on her phone, and so we really, really need all that information,” her father told Fox News.

Researchers coverage of the case, have filed dozens of warrants for the Iowa student social media accounts, in the hope that they will help find her.

Tech expert Jason Glassberg said the implementation of the order may only relate to metadata information, including conversations and social sharing.

“Unfortunately, this is a two-part request,” Glassberg said. “And it is time sensitive, both where she was and who were the people who contact her would be of interest. But, I think, [legal] the way in which this plays out is that they separate the location information of the actual context of the data.”

Sometimes, tech companies and law enforcement officials have fought bitterly for the data. In the San Bernardino case, as 14 people were killed and 22 others seriously injured in 2015, a terrorist attack, Apple refused to encode its own fingerprint technology-software, because it felt as soon as the technology was released, it could not be pulled back.

“And, of course, as soon as that happens,” Glassberg said, “all of their security is out the window.”

A third party ended up the coding of the software, without Apple’s help.

A reward of more than $ 220,000 is being offered for information that could lead to the finding of Tibbetts.

(Fox News)

There are a number of ways for networks and law enforcement to search someone for a phone is switched off. They can use to create a triangular effect of the mobile phone and GPS to derive the precise latitude and longitude of the individual.

But if the device dies, the options are limited.

“Effectively, as soon as a battery dies, these devices can no longer send or receive information,” Glassberg said, “then the information grows cold.”

Glassberg said that Apple will soon release a phone with a direct link to 9-1-1 providers that would possibly can be carried out after the battery dies, because it would be based on the hardware, not on the radio and cellular communication.

“That one-on-one communication will perhaps give you a much more accurate and much more timely information,” Glassberg said.

Apps like Applepay or one of the few that can use Near Field Communication for mobile payments may also provide an insight into a person’s place of residence.

Investigators on the case say they are prepared and equipped to search of electronic data. But they would not say if the tech companies were in compliance with their requests.

“We have more manpower with the help of the FBI, and we have experts from all over the nation offering to help,” said Richard Rahn, a special agent with the Iowa Department of Public Safety.

Researchers say that the fact that Tibbetts is a part of a generation whose life revolves around technology should make her easier to track down.

“In some cases, there is not much to go on. But Mollie is a 20-year-old student who fit in well on social and digital,” said Mitch Mortvedt, assistant director at the ministry, “so we are hopeful.”

Talia Kirkland is a multimedia reporter based in Philadelphia, Pa.

Follow us

Don't be shy, get in touch. We love meeting interesting people and making new friends.

Most popular