Joseph Gerace, the sheriff of New York's Chautauqua County, has seen a lot of suicides. As a child, well before his years in public service, his best friend's father took his own life.
So when Gerace heard about a call last July from a Facebook security team member in Ireland to a dispatcher at the 911 center in his county, it struck a familiar chord. The Facebook representative was calling to alert local officials about a resident who needed urgent assistance.
"This is helping us in public safety," Gerace, who's been in law enforcement for 39 years, told CNBC. "We're not intruding on people's personal lives. We're trying to intervene when there's a crisis."
The Chautauqua County case, first reported in August by the local Post-Journal, was pursued by Facebook because the company had been informed that a woman "had posted threats of harming herself on her Facebook page," the newspaper said.
For years, the company has allowed users to report suicidal content to in-house reviewers, who evaluate it and decide whether a person should be offered support from a suicide prevention hotline or, in extreme cases, have Facebook's law enforcement response team intervene.