Digital age helps navigate missing person maze

New facial recognition technology may be the key to help find missing person Tej Chitnis.

By Derek Schlennstedt

New facial recognition technology may be the key to help find missing person Tej Chitnis.

Rather than utilising billboards or printing thousands of photos and plastering them to sign posts and building, the Missing Persons Advocacy Network is now harnessing the power of Facebook facial recognition technology to help identify missing persons.

In April, the Missing Persons Advocacy Network (MPAN) and WhiteGrey Australia launched ‘invisible friends’, which encourages people with Facebook to ‘friend’ the profiles of 10 individuals who disappeared between 1991 and 2016 – one of which is Tej Chitnis

By friending these people the facial recognition technology searches the backgrounds of each photo and video posted by the user, in the hopes of identifying and locating the missing person.

One of the 10 missing people featured in the campaign is Tej Chitnis, who has been missing since 27 April 2016 when he was last seen by his family at his Burwood East home that morning before setting off in his silver Golf car.

Since then, the family’s desperate search has centred around Healesville and the Yarra Valley after a signal from his mobile phone indicated the phone was last used in the Healesville area.

His car was also captured on CCTV at the Green Street and Maroondah Highway intersection on the day he disappeared.

The plight of Tej and his family has touched the hearts of Healesville people with the family never giving up on seeing him again.

Over the years, posters have appeared regularly, and a billboard erected by the Missing Persons Advocacy Network (MPAN) with support from The Mobile Billboard Company in January 2018, reminded the community of the ongoing search.

Two years on and posts on his helpfindtejchitnis facebook page, urge people to utilise the new technology by friending Tej on facebook.

“This isn’t his usual Facebook page which you might already be friends with, it’s a page set up for him by MPAN to use the face recognition technology.”

With around 500 million photos and videos posted to Facebook every day, if even one of the faces match, the Facebook algorithm will then auto tag the profile and notify MPAN of the missing individual identified in the image.

MPAN reassures users that the facial recognition technology only scans the profiles of people who have it switched on and that those who add the missing people will not have their profiles looked at.

“Invisible Friends is an ingenious way to put artificial intelligence to work for a good cause, and carry out a task humans simply aren’t capable of,” MPAN founder and director Loren O’Keeffe says.

“By searching through billions of posts per week, we’re not only raising awareness for the devastated families of these missing people, but also hope to put an end to their ambiguous loss, the most stressful type of grief.”

Tej’s car has never been found, his mobile phone is switched off and his bank account has not been touched.

Anyone who has any information is asked to phone Box hill Police on 8892 3200.

For more information about the campaign and to friend Tej go to https://invisiblefriends.com.au/

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