It’s not easy to spell out how the Federation for Internet Alerts (FIA), a 501c3 nonprofit, helps missing children.
So here’s a wonderful story that shows how FIA and other groups using advertising technology help society — and we know it’s just the start.
On May 21, a 17-year-old boy went missing in Arkansas.
About a week later, local law enforcement sent a request for an alert to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), which then activated alerts in Arizona and Oklahoma, two states the boy might be.
“The child was believed to be in danger and the need for the public to be instantly engaged was a priority,” said John Bischoff, VP of the Missing Children Division at NCMEC. “The child’s poster was sent out through GMCNgine using FIA’s technology.”
This allowed the child’s poster to be published on existing digital ads via desktop and mobile devices using geo-targeting technology in places of importance. It didn’t take long for a citizen to see the alert, recognize the child and contact law enforcement.
On May 31, the child was safely recovered.
“We always knew the GMCNgine would be an important tool as part of coordinated efforts to recover missing children,” said Bob Cunningham, CEO of the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC).
FIA around the globe
More than 30 organizations around the world are plugged into the GMCN to rescue missing and exploited children.
So far in 2020, FIA delivered 935 alerts around the world, resulting in more than 2.7 billion media Impressions and 321 alerted cases closed — that’s 43% of children found.
“We are immensely grateful to the Federation for Internet Alerts for making their technology available to our members across the world and helping bring vulnerable children home to their families,” Cunningham said.
The past nine years haven’t been easy as pie for Jason Bier, but closing missing children cases sure is sweet.
In 2011, Bier and fellow volunteers helped launch a pilot test to support AMBER Alerts while working at Chicago-based digital ad agency Conversant. Using Conversant’s geo-targeting ad tech, Bier hoped to raise awareness for missing children, with a focus at a local level where awareness is most crucial to recovery.
Bier founded the Federation for Internet Alerts (FIA), a nonprofit, a few years later, and the organization continues to grow.
“We had a huge piece of a smaller pie when we were just serving AMBER Alerts,” Bier said. “But the team would much rather have a smaller piece of a bigger pie, and to be a part of something bigger.”
While FIA still serves AMBER Alerts across the U.S., its scope is larger than ever — especially over the last year — as it’s added partners and improves technology.
“We never knew what FIA would be,” Bier said. “We didn’t know it was going to evolve into a nonprofit with a dozen terrific companies around the world.”
One of those partnerships is with the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC).
Caroline Humer, Director of the Global Missing Children’s Center with ICMEC, is impressed with the the sheer scale FIA can distribute life-saving alerts.
“(ICMEC) is tremendously thankful for the partnership with FIA,” Humer said. “Just in 10 months, we have achieved over 1 billion media impressions across 11 countries by distributing missing children posters through FIA’s alerting technology.”
“This has helped raise international awareness that children go missing in any country,” Humer said. “We look forward to expanding our partnership and reaching more people who can help bring a missing child home.”
Since FIA’s involvement with ICMEC, the number of closed cases for missing children are on the rise, meaning more abducted children are rescued and returned home. In August, more than 50 cases closed. That number never reached higher than five before May. Although there’s still not enough data to substantiate FIA as the reason for the improved number of closed cases, early results are extremely promising.
“It’s just remarkable,” Bier said. “We know 36 percent of children have been recovered during that time, and whether that involves us or not, we’re shining a light in the darkness.
“That’s something I heard from a retired police officer in the UK. He thanked us for shining a light in the darkness to help children. It’s never been done before. It’s a change in the way society is thinking about children and causing governments to realize there are things you can do to help.”
Today, all of us are watching the difficult situation in Los Angeles and other cities in California as the most destructive and deadliest fires in state history seem to grow larger by the minute. Over 63 people have died, over 631 people are missing, and thousands of homes have been destroyed. Firefighters, the Red Cross, and law enforcement are working as hard as they possibly can to save lives and protect property. It’s times like these when incredible stories begin to emerge of people doing unexpected life-saving work that defines public service and serves as wonderful examples of doing good to help others. In many ways, this is what keeps hope alive.
One such story involves the Federation for Internet Alerts (FIA). It may surprise all of us that there is a special angel watching over the City of Angels during these fires, and her name is Angel Babcock. In March of 2012, Angel, her parents and two siblings passed away when her home was flattened by a tornado. Angel was only 20 months old.
I speak about Angel in the present tense because FIA has carried on her memory every day since the day she went to Heaven on March 4, 2012. At the time of Angel’s passing, FIA was early on in developing its technology through a partnership as a secondary AMBER Alert distributor with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. On the day Angel’s story was reported, a FIA volunteer read it and mobilized a team at Conversant to adapt the AMBER Alert technology to serve tornado warnings. It was a remarkable display of passion for Angel. Everyone wanted to channel our sadness in a way that would allow Angel’s memory to live on and save others that might have a chance to reach safety. Maybe it would be different for future Angels. Maybe her legacy could help the City of Angels.
Six years later, Angel’s memory has never been more real to all of us at FIA — as her memory lives on in each alert we serve. It has been a critical force for good as FIA has emerged as the largest global alerting platform for a wide variety of emergency alerts like the 8,257,054 Fire Weather Warnings served to the public in California, including the City of Angels, during the month of November.
The Digital Signage Federation and its members are partnering with FIA to bring these life-saving messages to the digital out of home space where we feel digital networks will be able to amplify these vital messages to people on the go through this dynamic digital content.
Since Project Angel was launched, we have served over 2 billion weather warnings across the United States and Canada.
We could not be prouder of Angel and the spirit she has left behind for all of us to cherish.
— Paul Fleuranges: The Digital Signage Federation, Board of Directors, FIA Partner
The Federation for Internet Alerts (FIA) is doing its part to save lives by delivering geo-targeted alerts to those in areas of danger.
But that’s not all. FIA is also helping to get voters to the polls.
In partnership with AppNexus and Democracy Works, FIA supports the delivery of location-based notifications to inform Americans when and where to cast a ballot for a wide range of elections. Caroline Smith, senior manager of corporate communications at AppNexus, is helping lead the charge.
“Democracy Works is a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to building tools to improve the voting experience for voters and election officials alike, to help every American vote in every local, state and national election,” Smith said.
Only 56% of voting-age Americans cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election, according to Pew Research. That’s starkly lower than voter turnout for the most recent national elections in many other nations. Belgium, for example, boasts the highest turnout rate at 87.2%, while Mexico (65.9%) and Canada (62.1%) also top the U.S. in voter turnout.
“Voting is a basic and realistic way to effect change in our community and country — every aspect of our daily lives ladders up in some way to decisions that are made by our elected representatives,” Smith said.
Democracy Works is upgrading the infrastructure for future elections and provides voters the information they need to register and vote easily.
“Democracy Works has a database of all the elections that are taking place across the country — from school boards on up,” Smith said. “Because AppNexus has done real-time alerting with FIA, we can pull info from Democracy Works’ database, and we’ll serve election reminders through the AppNexus PSA program that are targeted in real-time where elections are taking place.”
Democracy Works’ TurboVote Challenge is an initiative which aims to achieve 80 percent voter turnout throughout the U.S. For more information, please visit www.democracy.works.
Logan Malloy wrote this story for FIA. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CHICAGO, Oct. 2, 2018 — Jason Bier, President of FIA, reached out to John Wilander at Apple about Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) and its impact on effective alerting that FIA engages in during global threats to life. Mr. Wilander is the Security Engineer behind Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention and requested FIA submit a bug report in Bugzilla. As a result, Jason Bier, on behalf of FIA, submitted the following report. We will keep you updated on progress. PLEASE ADD YOURSELF TO THE CC LIST IN BUGZILLA TO FOLLOW PROGRESS HERE: https://bugs.webkit.org/show_bug.cgi?id=190209
The purpose of this bug is to request the allowance of third party cookies and other necessary data for emergency messages from FIA Partners and supporting authorities, including the Global Missing Children Alert Hub in the following countries: Albania, Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Lithuania, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan (Province of China), the United Kingdom and the United States.
Safari currently blocks all third-party cookies by default in its browser. Additionally, Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) creates uncertainty on the alert logic, further complicating delivery.
BACKGROUND: The Federation for Internet Alerts (FIA), its partners and supporting authorities relay alerts for serious events such as child abductions or imminent weather threats such as a tornado, tsunami or hurricane. Alerts are displayed immediately using the latest information from official authorities. FIA’s emergency alerts override or overlay other online messages to the public to display this urgent information to the areas directly impacted. The mission is to be a nonprofit facilitator for internet technology and services collaboration among companies, non-governmental organizations and alerting authorities to promote standards-based, all-hazards, all-media, authoritative alerting to individuals in societies worldwide.
Since its inception in 2013, FIA is the largest global distributor of authorized emergency alerts. It’s partners, through FIA, have disseminated over 3 billion hazard alerts. These are imminent threat alerts sent through browser and application advertising space. These alerts include AMBER Alert (Child Abduction), Tornado, Hurricane, Red Flag (Fire), Blizzard, Storm Surge and other warnings to the public. The organization has a running Alert Hub (aggregator) that collects imminent threats and multiple messaging systems within ad technology to deploy these alerts geographically and using dynamic retargeting creative rendering technology for the benefit of the public.
FIA’s success comes from the donation of technology grants and ad impressions, along with volunteers that serve to promote the mission, act as designated software engineers within volunteer partners and facilitate new deployments of alerts like the Digital Signage Federation (DSF). FIA has won 15 globally recognized awards for its technology and mission, such as two Shorty Social Good Awards for Best Technology and two People’s Choice Webby Awards. Safari currently blocks all third-party cookies by default in its browser. Additionally, Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) has limited use of third-party cookies, resulting in the inability for FIA to render alerts. Currently, alerts are sent to browsers and apps using the following methods:
2. PMP: Tornado Warnings and AMBER Alerts are also given priority on major publisher websites through a PMP. This allows premium inventory to make sure the public in the area of a child abduction sees the alerts. The elimination of third party cookies reduces the ability for PMPs to maintain frequency caps and analytics so that message can be shown.
3. Network Re-routing: Some ad networks receive AMBER Alerts from NCMEC and redirect certain geo-IP traffic to an ad server using tags. These tags inform the network about the emergency, and trigger a call to an ad server that can deploy the specific AMBER Alert to the browser.
4. PSA Ad Inventory: By filtering IP Geo traffic, cookie and non-cookie traffic to serve alerts. Setting frequency caps and acquiring correct geo data can be difficult in Safari as limited data is available.
5. RTB Inventory: Certain DSPs having budget caps with third party ad tech companies to buy inventory. Cookies are a primary source of bidding on DSPs, and result in the best way to deliver geographically relevant alerts. Lack of cookies on Safari removes this inventory in most cases from the DSP traffic flow, artificially reducing available traffic for alerts.
Users are generally unaware of the cookie blocking taking place by default on Safari and the impact on them seeing missing children. Since this alert hub is the largest missing child alerting system, we request that Apple work with FIA to reduce the impact of cookie-blocking by default and/or provide notices that these alerts are not being served and better explain how to turn them on to see alerts.
Sound the alarm and save a life. Mickey Schwab is doing his part.
Schwab, a Solutions Engineer at Facebook, helps people across the globe stay safe by magnifying the reach of the Federation for Internet Alerts (FIA). From information about missing children to severe weather notifications, Schwab uses his coding experience to play a critical role as FIA leverages the internet to save lives with geo-targeted warnings.
“We can essentially scale imminent threat alerts in a few hundred milliseconds,” Schwab said.
And it’s only getting faster.
Schwab recently put the finishing touches on the Alert Hub 2.0, a system that will improve FIA’s response times, cut operating costs and make it easier to utilize published alerting data.
“Mickey’s contributions to the future of FIA and alerting is incredible,” FIA President Jason Bier said. “Many generations of people around the world will see the benefits of what we’re doing.”
The impact is astounding. Stranger child abductions in the U.S. fell to an all-time low after FIA connected with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and FIA continues to aid those in areas of danger. For example, the non-profit served more than 21 million emergency messages to the public during Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in 2017.
Weather benefits, sunnier reliability
The Alert Hub 2.0 will enhance FIA’s vision. Much like the previous version launched in 2015, the new system covers every region of every cloud service via Amazon Web Services (AWS). Out-of-the-box AWS offerings were also added to improve reliability, reducing the complex code writing needed to run massive computing systems.
“This improves performance and allows our future volunteers to focus more on innovating to save lives rather than keeping up with existing upgrades and operational needs,” Schwab said.
For a nonprofit like FIA, it’s priceless — and it might be for others in the weather-tracking business, too. Schwab believes the Alert Hub 2.0 will aid researchers in their quest to review data and make meaningful correlations for future weather predictions.
“One benefit of the Alert Hub is that we keep a library of every weather alert,” Schwab said. “The biggest issue with weather alerts in Europe is that each country gives a storm a system ID. By not using one ID, each country doesn’t associate one specific storm. So as far as publicly available data, there’s difficulty because unless you have a private database, you’re double-counting, trying to combine and it’s hard to keep track.”
Bier believes FIA will help solve the problem, allowing innovators to better leverage public data.
“This may seem like an obvious problem someone has solved, but we’re the first organization to do it and make it free and available to the public,” Bier said.
How many million?
“Since 2015, FIA has processed and validated more than 1.6 million Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) alert messages,” Schwab said. “We have all those. We’ve got to the point where that’s not a big number, and we’ve normalized this idea where we can handle that kind of volume and reach.”
The latest advancements in technology will only expand those numbers, as a reduction in infrastructure burden make alerts more accessible and reliable. Software engineers should also find it easier to work with FIA due to the Alert Hub 2.0’s versatility.
“It’s a cool opportunity to show technology is a transformative tool where you can target a huge amount of people in a short amount of time,” Schwab said. “Whether it’s one alert or a million, the software doesn’t get tired. It just works. It was our goal to build a hands-off system that was robust.”
As cell phone networks, digital signage and transit providers come into the fold, Schwab feels the Alert Hub is “empowering communities” as it becomes a self-service system.
“(The new Alert Hub) makes things more digestible,” Schwab said. “A lot of the programs are open-sourced. It should be something that’s approachable, easier to integrate and expound upon, so we’re trying to improve that piece. Get the emergency information to the people.”
The alarm is ready. Schwab is, too.
Logan Malloy wrote this story for FIA. Contact him at email@example.com.
When it comes to data and consumer privacy, a growing number of industry challenges are impacting advertisers. FIA, however, continues to shine bright in the sector.
FIA President Jason Bier touched on this at the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) Summit in Sonoma, California, on June 12. It was a fitting location for the summit, as FIA delivered more than 25 million alerts for the Tubbs Fire, which ravaged the area in 2017.
“People at the summit were amazed by what we can do,” Bier said. “The fire warnings served during the Tubbs Fire were shown to all and really highlight adtech’s capabilities.”
The DAA provides significant rights to consumers while still allowing for innovation, andFIA adds another layer of importance because it showcases the commercial use of data as a vital life-saving initiative for countries across the world.
“We utilize the same communications infrastructure to save lives by alerting the public in real time to life-critical emergencies like firestorm warnings in California, hurricanes in Texas and Florida, and blizzards in Quebec,” Bier said. “This is possible because we have a robust self-regulatory privacy regime with the DAA to safeguard innovations, maintain open channels for publishers to monetize their content with data, and provide transparency and choice for consumers about privacy.”
Bier believes they’re compelling reasons, and FIA will continue to showcase how data is vital to commercial use and why consumer privacy should be spoken about in a positive light.
Logan Malloy wrote this story for FIA. Email Logan with questions or concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Susan Gorin lost her home. She could have lost much more.
When October wildfires engulfed Sonoma County, California, Gorin was in Denver eagerly awaiting the birth of her grandson. But after catching word of the inferno, Gorin, a Sonoma County Supervisor, decided to fly home early to offer her support.
Only there wasn’t much she could do.
The wildfire raged. Many people fled. Others lost their homes entirely or worse — their lives. At least 22 people died in the wildfires, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, making it one of the deadliest wildfires in state history.
Adding to the distress, scores of residents never received an emergency alert.
“Many people saw the red glow and assumed it was in another area and didn’t pay too much attention to it until the flames were coming down the hill to them,” said Gorin, former Mayor of Santa Rosa, California.
“Most of the alert systems happened neighbor to neighbor, friend to friend, telephone calls, knocking on each other’s doors.”
Sonoma County officials decided against a widespread emergency alert, stating that it would have done more harm than good to the evacuation efforts.
“It would cause unnecessary evacuations and delays for emergency vehicles reaching people in areas in need,” county spokeswoman Jennifer Larocque told The Mercury News. “In order not to slow down response to people actually in need of help, we chose not to send the notice.”
Jim Veillux, VP of marketing at Hyper-Reach, an emergency notification system used by law enforcement, schools and community groups, thought a widespread alert would be important to send to the community during a time of need. But that’s not to say Veillux doesn’t understand the difficulties of delivering precise emergency alerts.
“There are a bunch of things in the way of implementation,” Veillux said. “Initially, there wasn’t much precision in the targeting of the message. You had county-wide messages being delivered to everyone that were only relevant for a piece of the county. … That was particularly cited in one of the recent California wildfires.”
Instead, Sonoma County officials sent out Nixle SMS and a system called SoCo Alerts to warn people via their cell phones, though those emergency alerting systems require a person to sign up for the warnings.
“There was some anger (over not getting alerts),” Gorin said. “There’s still PTSD and shell shock in trying to understand how fast the fires engulfed our communities. Many people are grateful at whatever alert system was delivered to them. A number of people did receive wireless alerts, and a number of people heard knocking on their doors or the fire departments and sheriffs driving through the streets with their speakers on stating, ‘Get out now.’”
Is there a better way?
One fix for a better emergency alert system, Veillux deduced, could come from a mobile application. He said “an awful lot of states and counties” have some kind of app for emergency management, but almost none can send, capture or accept a messages to or from users.
“It would be relatively simple to install push-notification technology on an emergency app,” Veillux said. “If you could do that, you can use the location services associated with the phone and you can send messages with much more precision.”
It’s something for officials to ponder, and Veillux believes it might be an initiative that the Federation for Internet Alerts (FIA), a nonprofit that delivers AMBER Alerts and weather warnings to mobile devices and public signage, could tackle in the future.
“There’s a lot more that FIA can do that goes way beyond what’s currently being offered,” Veillux said. “It takes a long time for the federal government to get anything done. In some ways, FIA might be treated with more credibility.”
FIA reinforced its reputation as an industry leader by serving more than 20 million geo-targeted Red Flag Warnings on behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to devices in the area of wildfires. The ability for FIA to render alerts across a wide array of browsers and signage is likely to bring more awareness during emergencies like this.
For its part, Gorin said Sonoma County is looking at new ways to improve recognition time when dealing with wildfires.
“We absolutely need to rethink the alert systems and rethink how we approach the early ignition of fires,” Gorin said. “We’re considering investing in cameras on tall poles over hills to see where the lightning strikes or ignition occurs with utility lines in order to bring in air resources as quickly as possible. There are a variety of strategies we’re looking at.”
House of ash Several months later and the people of Sonoma County are still stamping out the aftermath of the wildfire.
“They’re not necessarily angry at the lack of alert system now, they’re trying to think about how they recover from the trauma of that night and the enormous amount of loss,” Gorin said.
It’s a feeling that’s hard to forget. A few days after the fires died, Gorin recalled seeing the plot of land where her home once stood.
“Maybe I’m a little strange, but I was actually fascinated and awed by the power of a firestorm,” Gorin said. “The sheer devastation that reduced a 2300-square foot home with tall ceilings into inches of ash.”
More than 5,000 structures were destroyed in the wildfire now known as the Tubbs Fire. The Los Angeles Times reported the fire caused $1.2 billion in damages.
The destruction from California wildfires won’t stop anytime soon, but hopefully the manner in which people receive alerts does.
Logan Malloy wrote this story on behalf of FIA. For any questions, email Logan at email@example.com.
Clear space on the mantle, the Federation for Internet Alerts (FIA) went 2-for-2 taking home high-profile media awards in September.
FIA garnered Adweek Media Plan of the Year honors on Sept. 18 and followed with a MediaPost OMMA (Online Media, Marketing and Advertising) Award for Online Advertising Creativity on Sept. 27.
Adweek recognized FIA for the best alternative media plan under $500,000. The annual competition pays tribute to the most innovative media strategies from across the globe. FIA was one of 23 Media Plan of the Year winners in 2017.
For the OMMA Award, FIA championed the category for Artificial Intelligence, topping IBM’s Watson ads and ROM chocolate’s ROMBOT ad for the honor. The OMMA Awards were created in 2004 to honor agencies and advertisers that push the boundaries of digital advertising.
“Our partners are actively involved in targeting relevant emergency messaging through the Internet to people during hurricanes and wildfires, so it’s especially meaningful to get noticed by the industry for the critical work we’re doing at this time,” FIA President Jason Bier said. “We’re grateful to have the opportunity to participate and make a difference through the deployment of technology that’s saving lives.”
“We’ve built an Alert Hub that ingests alerts every second, pulling them in from different servers around the world, aggregating them and putting them in the AWS Cloud,” Bier said. “We are deploying them through FIA Partners like AppNexus, Conversant and Oath in real time, and also making them available to innovators for free to create new life-saving tools.”
FIA’s video, “Saving Lives With Artificial Intelligence,” which stars Amazon’s Alexa and touches on the various ways FIA helps people avoid danger, was a key influencer for both awards, according to FIA President Jason Bier.
FIA’s mission is to get crucial alerts in front of the right people at the right time — and right location. For example, FIA served more than 21 million emergency warning impressions for the recent wildfires and hurricanes, flash floods, tornadoes and high winds in the midst of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
“Engine Media built an Alert Hub that ingests alerts every second, pulling them in from different servers around the world, aggregating them through the AWS Cloud,” Bier said. “We’re deploying these alerts through FIA Partners AppNexus, Conversant, GroundTruth, Oath and Rocket Fuel in real time, while also making them available to innovators for free to create new life-saving tools.”
FIA was also a finalist for The Digiday Awards in the category for Social Good.
When we unlock data, great things begin to happen. Businesses better understand their consumers, consumers get marketing communications that are relevant to them, and vital alerts get delivered to the right person, in the right location, at the right time.
GroundTruth (formerly xAd), believes that data can be used to power decisions beyond media and across various industries – including finance, retail, real estate, non-profits, and more.
That’s why, in 2015, GroundTruth started Location for Good. The guiding principle behind this campaign is to use the same location-driven technologies and strategies they use every day to improve the safety and welfare of our communities. Shortly after the devastating impact of Nepal earthquake in April 2015, GroundTruth announced that they would partner with FIA to bring hyper-local information to real-time emergency communications. GroundTruth’s goal: to use their location technology to help FIA quickly reach people in a targeted area with details of an abduction.
“Since founding the program, Location for Good and our work with FIA has become a passion project for myself and my team,” said Monica Ho, CMO, GroundTruth. “We’re extremely proud to be the only location service provider trusted by FIA and to date, we’ve helped FIA achieve a 98% abduction to recovery rate, leading to oer 800 successful recoveries.”
GroundTruth also sees the ability to decouple their data from media as a great opportunity for its partners. Their platform allows them to observe how devices interact with the real world and their visitation data enables them to pass those insights onto others, so partners can make more informed business decisions, whether it be for messaging and campaigns or forecasting and planning.
“As we look ahead at GroundTruth, everything we do will be based on driving performance via a scalable platform that leverages location as the main source of intent,” added Ho. “We’re constantly trying to evolve to make location simple and effective for our partners.”
As the mobile space begins to take center stage, and location data gains momentum, there will be many opportunities to continue to shape and grow the category and make a long-lasting impact.