MySpace won't provide names of registered sex offenders

Attorney calls MySpace's response "disingenuous"

MySpace.com has refused to turn over the names of registered sex offenders found using its social networking site to a group of state attorneys general because it is prohibited by federal and state law, the company said.

"We are doing everything short of breaking the law to ensure that the information about these predators gets to the proper authorities," said Hemanshu Nigam, chief security officer at MySpace.com, in an e-mail to Computerworld. "A few attorneys general have asked us to turn the names of the sexual predators over to them; we are, unfortunately, prohibited by federal and state laws from doing so."

The attorneys general were not pleased with MySpace's response.

"MySpace admitted they've found thousands of sex offenders on their site, but they have refused to provide information so law enforcement and parents can do something about it," said North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper in an e-mailed statement. "It's outrageous that MySpace chooses to protect the privacy of predators over the safety of children. We will take action to require MySpace to give law enforcement and parents the information we need to protect our kids."

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal called MySpace's response "disingenuous."

"I am deeply disappointed by MySpace's disingenuous refusal to provide information about convicted sex offenders with profiles on its site," Blumenthal said in a statement. "No subpoena is needed for much of the information we requested, such as the number of registered sex offenders with MySpace profiles. MySpace's failure to give us this essential data is inexplicable and inexcusable."

Blumenthal said legally MySpace can and must provide this information without a subpoena.

"The vague reference by MySpace to federal privacy laws certainly failed to justify a complete refusal to cooperate -- or insistence on a subpoena for all information," he said. "If MySpace wants a subpoena, we will seek one."

Cooper, Blumenthal and six other attorneys general, in a letter to MySpace.com earlier this week, requested information about registered sex offenders found on the company's site. The group asked for information including the names of the registered sex offenders and the states where they live, the number of registered sex offenders that have been found on the site, how long they have been members of MySpace, how MySpace found them, any contacts these offenders made with children using MySpace, and how many more predators are likely MySpace members.

In his statement, Nigam said MySpace has zero tolerance for sexual predators, which is why the company devoted a team of engineers to work with Sentinel Tech Holding to develop proprietary software for identifying and removing sexual predators from online communities.

"In the 12 days since the software has become operable, we have deleted and removed every registered sex offender that we identified out of our more than 175 million profiles," he said. "We need cooperation from lawmakers to drive mandatory sex offender e-mail registration legislation at the federal and state level to make blocking predators from community-based Web sites a more efficient process. Our hope is that the attorneys general who signed onto this letter, and other Web sites, join us in pushing this legislation into law."

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Linda Rosencrance

Computerworld

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