AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The family of Nichole Cable, a 15 year old Glenburn girl missing since Sunday, believes someone created a fake Facebook account to contact their daughter before she disappeared.
The account, created using the name Bryan Butterfield, has since been deactivated, but that does not mean investigators searching for the teen cannot use technology to help find clues to her whereabouts.
"Just because the account is no longer accessible publicly, whether it has been truly deleted or simply disabled by the user, that's not to say law enforcement can't access that information, just not as quickly," explained Mike Webber, a former police officer who served on Maine's Computer Crimes Task Force.
"They can either collect what is publicly available that hasn't been locked down by the user, or with the credentials, they can look at the private data as well, messages and things like that," he added.
Webber now writes computer programs and trains law enforcement officials and corporate investigators as Senior Vice President of BitSec Global Forensics, which is a division of Washington D.C. based Network Designs.
He says most everything people post on the internet is written in pen, and is very hard to completely erase.
"Every piece that is posted, whether it is a picture or a status update or anything like that, something that is shared or liked, all of that is recorded and law enforcement and corporate investigators as well are frequently collecting that data and using it for investigations," he said. "A picture that is posted, for example, may have embedded data that says the photo was taken at a specific latitude and longitude and a specific time using this sort of camera. There is a real wealth of information that's available."
And that information is not just gathered on social media websites, but by most websites people visit on their computer or mobile devices.
"You're leaving footprints, if you will, behind all over the place, not only on the device that you are using - whether it is your phone, or your tablet or your computer - but on that remote server where that website is hosted, be it the Boston Globe, or Facebook, or any other public website," he stated. "You are leaving behind information that could be used to track you back to your location, which is your IP address, the type of browser you are using, the type of operating system that you are using, the resolution on your computer monitor and more."
He says investigators looking for Nichole Cable will search sites beyond Facebook to try to identify other identities that may be in play.
He suggests parents talk with their kids about their activity on line and says we all should exercise caution when interacting with people we don't know, and should take steps to verify the people we think we are in contact with really are who they say they are.