TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: MySpace to Share Sex Offender Data

MySpace to Share Sex Offender Data

Margaret Lillard, AP (
Mon, 21 May 2007 13:42:37 -0500

By MARGARET LILLARD, Associated Press Writer

Faced with legal demands from state attorneys general,
said Monday it will release data on registered sex offenders it has
identified and removed from the popular social networking Web site.

The company, citing federal privacy laws, initially rebuffed a demand
from North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper and colleagues in
seven other states who last week asked for data on how many registered
sex offenders are using the site and where they live.

MySpace agreed Monday to provide the information to all states after
some members of the group filed subpoenas or took other legal actions
to demand it. The company said last week such efforts were required
under the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act before it
could legally release the data.

"Different states are going about it different ways," said Noelle
Talley, spokeswoman for Cooper, who filed a "civil investigative
demand" for the information.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal used a subpoena that
"compels this information right away -- within hours, not weeks,
without delay -- because it is vital to protecting children," he

"Many of these sex offenders may have violated their parole or
probation by contacting or soliciting children on MySpace," Blumenthal

MySpace obtained the data from Sentinel Tech Holding Corp., which the
company partnered with in December to build a database with
information on sex offenders in the United States.

"We developed 'Sentinel Safe' from scratch because there was no means
to weed them out and get them off of our site," said Mike Angus,
MySpace's executive vice president and general counsel.

Angus said the company, owned by media conglomerate News Corp., had
always planned to share information on sex offenders it identified and
has already removed about 7,000 profiles, out of a total of about 180

"This is no different than an offline community," he said. "We're
trying to keep it safe."

Angus said the company had also made arrangements to allow law
enforcement to use the Sentinel software directly.

Cooper, Blumenthal and attorneys general in Georgia, Idaho,
Mississippi, New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania asked for the
Sentinel data last week.

Social networking sites such as MySpace allow users to create online
profiles with photos, music and personal information, and lets them
send messages to one another and, in many cases, browse other

Cooper said the information from Sentinel could potentially be used to
look for parole violations or help in investigations. He said
lawmakers in North Carolina are considering legislation that would
further restrict access to social networking Web sites, including one
that would require parents' permission for minors to set up a profile.

Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann said sharing the information is a good
first step toward enacting those kinds of protections.

"MySpace needs to do more, including implementing an effective age
verification system that will make the site considerably safer," he

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said his office will subpoena
the records as well.

"I think once we find out the content of the messages -- of course, it
will depend on how long they retain that information -- we may very well
find that some of the messages included illegal enticement of a child,"
he said.

Associated Press writer Pat Eaton-Robb in Hartford, Conn., contributed
to this report.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.

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