April 21, 2011 at 3:39 PM ET
Like many of us these days, Ivan Kaspersky has a presence on a social networking site. And some think that that may have made the 20-year-old son of a Russian software mogul more vulnerable to kidnapping, particularly in Russia, where crime — and computer-related crimes — are significant problems.
Russian authorities are searching for Kaspersky, son of Yevgeny Kaspersky — founder of well-known security software company Kaspersky Labs — who has gone missing in Moscow. Kidnappers are reportedly demanding nearly $4.3 million for the son's return, according to the BBC and Russian news outlets.
The college student reportedly has been missing for two days.
An English-language version of Pravda said that "According to media reports, the kidnappers may have gathered all the necessary information on the residence and place of work of the younger Kaspersky from the internet, as the young man has a very detailed account on the 'In Contact' social network."
In Contact, or "Vkontakte," is essentially the Facebook of Russia, with its blue-and-white website even looking similar to Facebook's.
It emulates Facebook so much that "it's often been accused of being a Facebook clone," noted Royal Pingdom, which offers Web services, in 2009. "Regardless of that, it has become the most popular social networking site in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. It was launched in 2006 and as of August 2009, Vkontakte had more than 40 million users."
While Facebook is a presence in Russia, Vkontakte is much bigger, with nearly half of the country's social networking audience, according to comScore, and several other Russian social networking sites also playing a bigger role than Facebook there.
It is too soon to say whether Kaspersky's Vkontakte account played a role in providing the kind of information kidnappers would need. Certainly, as more people share their personal information on social networking sites, there's a lot to be said for not saying a lot, particularly when it comes to your address, whereabouts, travel plans and other similar information.
In the United States, Facebook has been used by a mother to help her find her children, who were kidnapped 15 years earlier, tracking them down through Facebook. The site has also been a venue for less-than happy instances: some fights have been instigated on Facebook. And in Colombia last summer, three teens were murdered after death threats against them and 66 others were posted on Facebook.