FBI makes debut with FBI Child ID iPhone app

Aug 23, 2011
Tech

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has made its App Store debut with FBI Child ID’s endgame. Designed for iPhone and iPod Touch, the app was built to store pertinent information about your kids, suitable for law enforcement use, in the event of an emergency situation. I’ve got to be honest, though — this is a […]

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has made its App Store debut with FBI Child ID’s endgame. Designed for iPhone and iPod Touch, the app was built to store pertinent information about your kids, suitable for law enforcement use, in the event of an emergency situation. I’ve got to be honest, though — this is a low-rent app. Its design isn’t just basic, it’s bad (hope tax dollars weren’t spent in its creation). I’m not just talking poor user interface, I’m talking typos, too. “Chidren?” C’mon.

Errors aside, let’s get to the real heart of the app. By tapping the plus sign, you’ll be prompted to enter in information about your child. In an emergency, you can open the info for your child and hit send. The app will import all the details and photo into an email, which you can then send to the appropriate agency (if you have an email address). You can add a photo, but you can only take a live image — no importing from the camera roll. Sorry, parents with joint-custody, you’ll have to wait until the little one is present. Including a photo isn’t required, but I think we’d all agree it’s an important feature of FBI Child ID. Make the photo a good one. There’s no support for additional angles.

Next, you can enter name information, including nicknames. The fields don’t default to starting with capital letters, and although a lowercase name won’t prevent the FBI from finding your child, it does speak to the lack of detail and thought given in the creation of this app. Next comes the address. If you have multiple children, you’ll have to enter this fully each time — no saving of information for later use. I was even more surprised that date of birth, gender, ethnicity, height, weight, hair color and eye color were presented as empty fields, rather than toggle buttons or lists to select from. My knowledge of law enforcement is limited to television, but from a data-sourcing point of view, I’d think standardizing these fields would make the process run more smoothly in a time-sensitive situation.

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There are 10 fields for identifying characteristics, but I think this would be a prime opportunity for parents to document birthmarks and the like with photos rather than text. The app provides space for two guardians — again, not ideal for blended or extended-family situations — and a field for additional comments. Once you’ve entered all the info you want, hit save. Be sure you’re comfortable with the information you enter. I, like many others, was surprised that there is no password protection on this app.

FBI Child ID offers integrated buttons to call 911 or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, as well as information on how to use the app, and what to do if your child is missing.

The FBI is providing a useful service to parents with this app. This information is all good to have ready to go should an emergency occur, but I wish more care had been taken in the development of FBI Child ID.

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