MySpace Offers Up Profile Information to Authorities

Law enforcement agents in Missouri and Kansas will receive information from MySpace very soon, to investigate whether known sex offenders have been using the social networking site, possibly to hunt for new victims.

Yesterday, MySpace announced that it will release information on over 7,000 people who have been removed from the site so far for sexual offenses. This is an abrupt reversal from last Friday’s refusal to meet similar demands from law enforcement agencies in North Carolina, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania. In refusing these states’ demands, MySpace cited federal privacy laws.

It is important to protect minors from the (often very sophisticated) tactics of serious sex offenders, and this demand for MySpace profile information is an honest effort to stop sex crimes before they occur. But it must be noted that neither the Kansas Attorney General’s office, nor the Missouri Attorney General’s office could cite a case in their states in which a registered sex offender had been caught soliciting minors on a networking site. Getting their hands on MySpace profile information is of course supposed to change this.

However, it was noted in the proceedings between MySpace and various states — and everyone halfway web literate knows — that it is incredibly easy for a person to change Profile names and information, or simply start a new profile. Therefore, this effort by states to track criminals through old profiles that have already been deleted by internal MySpace security seems far-fetched, and a little “put on.”

True, MySpace has not agreed to offer up information on every profile in the network. Federal privacy laws remain largely intact. But every time a freedom of self-determination or self-protection is handed over to the authorities, it seems to me an opportunity to reflect on the gravity on what is occurring, and a question mark over where the next concession may come.

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