Examples of fingerprints.

TikTok videos featuring binders designed to store DNA, fingerprints, and other personal information have received millions of views.Getty Images, Douglas Sacha

  • A binder filled with DNA and personal details “in case I go missing” has gone viral on TikTok.

  • The idea originates from a popular true-crime podcast, but it has faced criticism from audiences.

  • Law enforcement say it could be useful, but the risks may outweigh the potential benefits.

On December 14, 2022, the TikTok account for a brand called Savor, which sells organization and storage products, uploaded a video of a person thumbing through a folder sold by the brand. A voiceover said it was filled with items intended to be used in case the person went missing, including a hair sample, a set of fingerprints, and a list of people police should question.

The folder used is sold on Savor’s website as the “In Case I Go Missing” binder, priced at $46.95.

Savor’s clip quickly went viral, receiving over 10 million views and thousands of comments. Some encouraged the idea and gave advice on additional items they thought belonged in the binder.

In a series of follow-up videos, @Savor.It.All responded to the advice from comments, adding a cheek swab and an updated hair sample.

Jennifer McAllister-Nevins, the 52-year-old founder and co-CEO of Savor, told Insider in an email statement that when her father was in hospital she was asked what medication he took, and she didn’t know the answer. The brand developed the “Family Emergency Collection,” which the binder is part of, to help people be “prepared for any situation,” she said.

But a lot of viewers were critical of the concept, suggesting it was playing off irrational fears, romanticizing the idea of being a crime victim, and offering counterproductive advice. A number of users stitched the videos, reuploading clips and adding their commentary.

One such video, created by a TikToker who goes by @frogmommyyy and said they have a degree in criminology, told viewers not to follow the creator’s advice, labeling it “weird” and “bad for your mental health.”

Another TikToker, who goes by @bexhype, cautioned viewers against publicizing their personal details online, while @saint.cleo compared the behavior to that of doomsday preppers.

“I don’t think this is about doomsday or romanticizing becoming a victim,” McAllister-Nevins told Insider in response to the criticism, adding that the folder “can be a source of comfort.” Law enforcement says in the rare cases of a disappearance it could be helpful — but there are also risks.

The brand has been promoting the concept of the binder for at least a year, appearing to have been inspired by a true-crime podcast

The caption to Savor’s December video read, “Tell me you’re listening to a little too much crime junkies without telling me.”

“Crime Junkie” is a true-crime podcast hosted by author and presenter Ashley Flowers and her childhood friend Brit Prawat. Its website includes an “If I Go Missing” page which provides users who input their email addresses with a blank form to fill in that includes fields for fingerprints, a description of a typical daily schedule, account passwords, and credit card information.

The podcast is credited with popularizing the idea, and various templates and notebooks for this purpose are available to buy across the internet. “Crime Junkie” did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Savor has also posted about the idea before. In January 2022, the account posted a 33-second video of a person placing different labels on a binder for sections including medical and official documents.

“This is my ‘in case I go missing’ binder,” the voiceover said. The caption tagged “Crime Junkie” co-host Flowers, saying she would be “SOO proud.” The received over 15.6 million views and also drew a mixed response, as some comments supported the idea while others suggested the brand was profiting off people’s fear.

If the worst were to happen, a binder of personal information could be helpful to police

Professor Richard Bennett, chair of the Department of Justice, Law, and Criminology at American University in Washington, D.C., told Insider he thinks the concept of the binder is a “good idea” and could be useful for police, but noted the DNA samples would not be used to track down a missing person, but rather to identify a body. If this were the goal of the binder, Bennett recommended including a dental record if possible, “especially if you’ve had extensive dental work” as this could further assist an investigation.

In the event of a missing person’s case, Bennett said the list of friends and exes could be beneficial, but this same information would likely be taken from their personal devices. “Any really good investigator, the first thing you’re going to do is you’re gonna look at the person’s phone. The second thing you’re going to do is get the person’s computer,” he said.

However, this additional step would often require a search warrant, and the length of time it takes to secure one “really depends on who you are, where you are, and the relationship you have with the judges,” Bennet said.

If a friend or relative simply handed the binder over to the authorities on the missing person‘s behalf, that would speed up the process as police could immediately access the details without such a warrant, as that’s “perfectly legal” Bennet said. “They can run the DNA, they can do anything they want with it.”

Some of the risks pointed out by TikTok viewers are worth considering

Bennett told Insider it’s crucial that anyone planning to keep a folder like this ensures they place the information in safe hands. “You’ve got to be very careful who has this book,” he said, echoing some of the concerns on TikTok that keeping a binder like this could put a person at risk. “That’s what I worry about. Who has access to this?”

Tony Underwood, a chief deputy at the Union County Sheriff’s Office in Monroe, North Carolina, told local NBC-affiliate news outlet WCNC in 2019 that anyone with this type file should keep it ideally in a safe deposit box, as any misplaced information could make them vulnerable to identity theft, but that overall he believed it could be helpful in the case of disappearance as it could allow police access.

However, the chances of it being necessary may be smaller than we think.

The true-crime genre has long been popular, especially among TV and podcast fans, but it’s also been subject to criticism as some argue it exploits victims and their families for entertainment.

According to a YouGov report based on a poll published in September 2022, half of Americans enjoy the true crime genre, but 40% believed it made people “unnecessarily fearful and paranoid.” They may be right.

A Finnish research paper published in June 2020, which examined the impact crime news can have on its consumers established there was “a connection between crime news consumption and fear of crime,” adding that social media outlets have “very likely further contributed toward the increasing risk of fear of violence.”

Over 600,000 people go missing in the United States every year, but the majority are quickly found still alive, according to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. Around 4,400 unidentified bodies are recovered each year, approximately 1,000 of which remain unidentified one year later.

For more stories like this, check out coverage from Insider’s Digital Culture team here. 

Read the original article on Insider

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