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Google Cracks Down On Mugshot Blackmail Sites 251

Posted by timothy
from the it'll-cost-ya dept.
Google is apparently displeased with sites designed to extract money from arrestees in exchange for removing their mugshot pictures online, and is tweaking its algorithms to at least reduce their revenue stream. From the article at The New York Times: "It was only a matter of time before the Internet started to monetize humiliation. ... The sites are perfectly legal, and they get financial oxygen the same way as other online businesses — through credit card companies and PayPal. Some states, though, are looking for ways to curb them. The governor of Oregon signed a bill this summer that gives such sites 30 days to take down the image, free of charge, of anyone who can prove that he or she was exonerated or whose record has been expunged. Georgia passed a similar law in May. Utah prohibits county sheriffs from giving out booking photographs to a site that will charge to delete them. ... But as legislators draft laws, they are finding plenty of resistance, much of it from journalists who assert that public records should be just that: public."
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Google Cracks Down On Mugshot Blackmail Sites

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  • Re:Not legal (Score:4, Interesting)

    by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @04:32PM (#45052917)
    It's the American obsession with mugshots. Again, something the rest of the world will never understand. Here in .cz, you'd be probably thrown into jail for spreading such photos in the first place.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 06, 2013 @04:37PM (#45052951)

    Stop automatically thinking people are criminals because they were arrested. Wake up and realize that you are living in a police state where anyone can be arrested at any time because a cop wanted to. A friend of mine was pulled over for running a stop sign and the cop asked to search his car. Of course he said "no" so the cop arrested him and took him to jail for running the stop sign, which allowed him to search the car "incident to arrest." This crap happens all the time in Texas.

  • by angel'o'sphere (80593) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @05:19PM (#45053171) Homepage Journal

    In other countries such pictures get not published. They are property of the government (hence copyrighted) and according to privacy laws and laws about your personal right to have control over the fotos taken from you, publishinig them is a copyright infringement, a infringement on privacy and demanding money to remove them from "the internet" is blackmailing and fraud.
    If some one would do that with my mugshot in my country he had bad luck. Surprising that in gods own country people obviously have no rights at all and need a new law every year to combat such exploits.

  • by _Sharp'r_ (649297) <sharper AT booksunderreview DOT com> on Sunday October 06, 2013 @05:25PM (#45053197) Homepage Journal

    Public records are publicly available and government photos are "not subject to copyright in the United States and there are no copyright restrictions on reproduction, derivative works, distribution, performance, or display of the work.". [usa.gov].

    That said, it should be slander to post the records with the implication they mean someone is guilty of something. Posting the final disposition of charges, or something along those lines would be sufficient to defend against that.

  • by Austrian Anarchy (3010653) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @05:32PM (#45053251) Homepage Journal

    I applaud Google for this move but the solution is for LEO not to release pictures or other personally identifiable information about people who have not been convicted in the first place because doing so can ruin an innocent person's life and innocent people get charged with crimes all the time. On a related note, when Strauss-Kahn got the "perp walk" treatment, many in France were shocked because the practice is banned [telegraph.co.uk] there to protect the innocent,

    This indeed is the correct solution. If governments were not tossing these pictures about willy-nilly, these sites would not have any content of anybody who was later found not guilty. The sources are frequently sheriff's department websites that amount to a big giant campaign sight at taxpayer expense saying "Hey! Look how many people we are arresting for YOU!"

    It is pretty haphazard too. I have been trying to get an FBI wanted poster from 1972, of a guy who was caught and confessed (for real) in 1986, but they keep saying it cannot be released because it is of a "living person." I ended up getting the 1982 version from a collector's site anyway.

  • Re:Not legal (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @05:46PM (#45053335) Homepage

    Not when the police does it. It's 100% legal when performed by your local, state, or federal law enforcement.

    You are confusing laws for you compared to what they have to abide by.

  • by MisterSquid (231834) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @06:41PM (#45053643)

    In the US since the late 1980's, getting arrested for any (and no) reason has become a huge socioeconomic problem as many employers, including low-tier employers, run background checks on prospective employees that flag subjects in the Federal NCIC database which records all arrests regardless of conviction, acquittal, guilt, or innocence.

    As a result, many people (but especially black males and LNWI's, or Low Net Worth Individuals) are relegated to a lifetime of poor employment prospects, unable to land jobs even as burger-flippers. This is true even if these arrestees are innocent!

    Dale Carson, a criminal defense attorney with experience as a police officer and an FBI agent, has written a book called "Arrest-Proof Yourself" [archive.org] which basically makes the argument that individuals should do anything they can (within the law) to avoid arrest for the simple fact that in the United States being arrested will bring incalculable financial harm to people who find themselves arrested for any reason.

    The book is enlightening and can be profitably be read by almost everyone, even if one's risk of arrest is low.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 06, 2013 @07:00PM (#45053741)

    That applies only to the Federal government. State, county and municipal governments, who generate the vast majority of mugshots are free to set whatever copyright policies they wish.

  • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @08:21PM (#45054227)
    The cop she lived next to didn't know she was autistic, and when someone kicked his screen door he assumed it must be her and had her booked on assault and vandalism charges. A judge ruled within hours to let her go and expunge her record, but those sites have her photo all over the place.
  • by Penguinisto (415985) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @11:01PM (#45055421) Journal

    ...what sibling said.

    If you were arrested at some point in the past and your face/mugshot winds up at the site, with a full (as possible) record of what happened to you? It's simply the truth. Now the ideal says that you paid your dues, did your time, etc. On the other hand, reality says you're not going to be able to bury such information anymore.

    In spite of all that, I'm perfectly okay with such sites on these conditions:

    1) a sunset period occurs where faces/records get automatically deleted after a period of years (5, 7, 10, whatever - maybe set one period for misdemeanors, a second for felonies, a lifetime for convictions involving pedophilia or death, etc).

    2) a clear listing of what happened after the arrest must accompany the picture (dismissal, not guilty, fine, conviction, plea bargain, whatever). Some of these sites only list what the arrest was for.

    IMHO? If I were ever arrested, and if it were my image on such sites? Fuck it - it would cost too much to chase down every two-bit operator with a web host and a bit of Perl scraping-script (seriously, there's like dozens of such sites out there. The reason why I know all this? I'll explain at the end...) Besides, it's not like a background check would miss such a thing in the first place unless the record was well and truly expunged.

    (So, how do I know these things? I happened to find an ex-boss of mine on it after a friend of mine heard a rumor, and discovered the dude is currently in prison for doing things to his daughter that were way the hell wrong. Took four different sites before I found enough of the story to discover what happened. Pity - he seemed a really cool guy, and technically he's sharp as hell.)

  • by CodeBuster (516420) on Monday October 07, 2013 @12:52AM (#45055969)

    Even if you prove that you're innocent of everything but similar fashion choices as a criminal, you still have an arrest record

    Precisely. That is why Dale Carson suggests in the book that you don't dress in clothing that is commonly worn by criminals or at least the street walking kind. A suit and tie combined with neat personal grooming, clean haircut and respectful attitude is best and will buy you much leeway with most police officers, but at the very least avoid sports jerseys and baggy pants and be polite. The better that you look and act like an honest upstanding citizen the less likely the police are to stop or arrest you. If you drive a car, make sure that it's clean and well maintained. The basic premise here is to be the person that you want to be seen as, not the person that the police like to arrest. You might call that profiling and it is, but that's reality. These things are doubly true for young blacks and hispanics who are more likely to be stopped by police than a WASP, all other things being equal.

  • by oobayly (1056050) on Monday October 07, 2013 @03:51AM (#45056545)

    Wait, I have to pay my dues for being arrested? I thought I have to pay my dues if I'm convicted.

"Pull the trigger and you're garbage." -- Lady Blue

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