The New York Times revealed Saturday, October 5, 2013, that Google has taken action as recently as last Thursday, October 3, 2013, to remove mugshot websites that extort money from the arrested from its search algorithm. As Randy Travis sings in his song Good Intentions anyone can wind up in jail on Christmas morning which is bad enough. But to have your mugshot on the first page of Google by Christmas night is just too much. Mugshot websites have become a scourge. Flouting laws, state legislatures, angry criminal defense lawyers, and law enforcement, they troll sheriff’s department websites which post inmate information including mugshots and criminal charges on their government websites as public information, then download the mugshot photographs along with the arrested person name and criminal charges and post it on their very highly optimized websites that rank well on search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo. When people do internet searches on themselves, friends, prospective dates, enemies, or prospective employees, these websites will show up often with a thumbnail of the mugshot of the subject of the search on the first page of search results. The arrested person can have the photo and other information taken down…for a fee usually $150 or more. This has resulted in huge profits for these websites which is little more than just thinly veiled extortion. Many states have taken action and passed laws like Georgia. However, the laws are paper tigers against these incubuses of the internet as the websites are nearly impossible to track down to sue with legal process and often hide in obscure foreign jurisdictions. Google has come to the rescue flying the banner of “Don’t Be Evil” on fields of battle that law and government have been proven impotent and with the power of cyber-deity de-ranked them. Hopefully, these entities praying on the mistakes of others will be merely a footnote in the history of the web. Thank you, Google!
After learning of the practice from the New York times, Mastercard, Discover, American Express, and Paypal have severed relationships with several of the mugshot sites. Visa is still investigating.
-Author: George Creal