I’ve always been a fan of Wired News. Ever since the early geek days when the cypherpunks ruled the cover of Wired Magazine, it’s been the solution to my never-ending quest for more geeky news on the bleeding edge of technology.
This week, Wired News publishes the results of a comparison between the California Sex Offender Database and MySpace users and comes up with the easily predictable results:
Wired News ran the names of randomly selected registered sex offenders in San Francisco and neighboring Sonoma County through MySpace’s user search engine, and turned up no fewer than five men whose self-reported names, photographs, ages, astrological signs, locations and (in two instances) heights matched those of profiles on the state’s online sex offender registry.
In two additional cases, the information posted on MySpace was sufficient to suggest a probable but not certain match. Repeated e-mails to all seven men through MySpace were not answered.
On the surface, this article appears to be nothing more than yet another attempt to attack the popular social networking service with hints of a ‘criminal problem’, which has been a popular angle in recent weeks. After spending time reading the article, I’m convinced that it’s nothing more than another hatchet job against MySpace.
Criminals will always use whatever technology is available to them in order to commit their criminal acts. As one commenter noted in their comment on the post at wired.com, 97% of sexual offenders have a telephone, should they have to disclose the fact that they’re a convicted sex offender whenever they answer the phone – or make a phone call?
As a former criminal justice professional, I’ve always had a problem with sex offender registration lists. I believe that registration leads to community ostracism and potential violence or ‘shunning’ of a person who has already served time for their offense. Yes, I’m well aware that the recidivism rate for sex offenders is very high – but so is the recidivism rate for criminals in general.
This problem isn’t MySpace’s problem. What does the author expect them to do? Ban all sex offenders? Conduct a background check before someone can blog?