Search Party Rules of Engagement

Since our Search Party CTF involves real people, we must be very strict with our rules. These rules are designed to ensure there is no criminal activity or interference in active law enforcement investigations by contestants and to ensure we are respectful to missing persons and their loved ones.

Please carefully review and follow these rules. Failure to comply with our rules may result in disqualification from the CTF, revocation of any Trace Labs digital badges, removal from the Trace Labs Slack group and/or future Trace Labs events. If you have questions about any of these rules, please ask a Trace Labs core team member.

Passive Reconnaissance

All Trace Labs contestants are limited to passive reconnaissance. This means you can view but not engage. Zero touch reconnaissance is required in order to avoid interrupting ongoing criminal investigations and causing more trauma to the family. Contacting the subject, family of the subject or friends of the subject will result in immediate disqualification (this includes tagging, friending, liking or any other interaction). Basically, performing anything but passive reconnaissance, will result in disqualification. This means you don’t “friend” or comment on any social media related to the subject.

Blacklisted Sites

We do not permit the following type of sites to be used as submission sources:

  • News/media
  • Law enforcement
  • Missing persons (includes Missing Persons Facebook pages and WebSleuths).


To score points, you’r submissions must be verifiable. This means a link to the public information you discovered. Information behind a pay wall is not worth any points as it can not be verified.


All submissions must have relevance. For example, if you provide a Friend submission, it must show why this friend is relevant. If you try submitting all the friends listed in their FaceBook then the judge will likely reject all of these submissions. Ensure you take time to provide details that describe why this submission is important.

Valid Teams

Only registered teams/individuals can participate in the contest.

On Prem/Virtual

The event will explicitly say if you are required to be onsite or if virtual/remote participation is allowed.


Attacking any Trace Labs, contestants or hosting group’s infrastructure will result in immediate disqualification and permanent ban.


Attempting to interfere or exploit any other players will result in immediate disqualification and permanent ban.

Login Attempts/Password Resets

Using passwords from publicly available data breaches will result in immediate disqualification. While the data is public, the use of that data is illegal, immoral and not in the spirit of Trace Labs mission. Additionally, any attempted passwords resets, or even visits to password reset pages associated with an account related to the case is strictly prohibited.

Fake Intelligence

You cannot create (fake) the intelligence. We will be checking this.

Law Enforcement Communication

Do not engage the law enforcement or media. At the end of the Search Party, the Trace Labs team will compile intelligence reports to send directly to law enforcement.

Gaming the System

Do not try to “game” the system. This includes repeatedly submitting the same information or trying to use categories with higher point values when the intel is not in that category. This will greatly reduce the speed at which we process your data which will mean your team’s progress will not be shown on the leader board and ultimately you will lose all these points.

Trace Labs reserves the right to enforce any new rules that are reasonable. If in doubt, ask us. We will be happy to provide guidance. Questions, concerns and recommendations can be sent to: or post in our Slack group.

What Trace Labs Is Not


Trace Labs does not theorize or speculate. We only perform OSINT. We are not vigilantes. We are not the police. Instead, we simply perform passive reconnaissance to collect intelligence on a missing person case and provide this to the respective law enforcement agency to allow them to pursue the appropriate course of action.

How Members Can Help

Become a Search Party Judge

If you would like to volunteer some of your time with Trace Labs we typically start you as a CTF judge at one of our many events.


Join the Search Party

The Search Party CTF is an effort that allows for the crowdsourcing of contestants to perform a single task: Conduct open source intelligence operations to help find missing persons


Make a Donation to Trace Labs

Even a few dollars can make a difference. Donations of any amount are appreciated to help support our many operational costs