MySpace to Share Sex Offender Data

May 21

RALEIGH, N.C. (May 21) - 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.

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

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 million.

"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.

MySpace officials said they had always intended to provide information to law enforcement officials, but were trying to work out a legal process for handing over the information.

"When we remove individuals from our site, we always keep in mind the law enforcement aspect of it," said MySpace Chief Security Officer Hemanshu Nigam.

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 on line profiles with photos, music and personal information, and lets them send messages to one another and, in many cases, browse other profiles.

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 said.

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.

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. bought MySpace for $580 million in 2005 to be the cornerstone of the media company's strategy

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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Lynda Location: Jennings on Jun 1, 2007 at 05:50 AM
    That is way I will not let my 13yo granddaughter go into chat rooms unless an adult is present.It is not safe.
  • by Anonymous Location: Tallahassee on May 25, 2007 at 09:31 AM
    It's about time somebody take action and stop beatin around the bush. This is a great start towards accountability. Not only do we as parents have to be accountable for our kids, but we can't stand by and not put forth an effort to protect our kids.
  • by Kelly Location: Wakulla County on May 24, 2007 at 07:57 AM
    I think that it is a great idea to make to age limit on MySpace more affective. I know that there are some kids on MySpace that are 13 and even younger. In the set-up process they just lie about there age, but in pictures you can clearly see their really age. . .
  • by Ken Kerwin Location: Echol county GA. on May 24, 2007 at 06:38 AM
    I beleve the parents and children should know if they are talking to a sex predetor.
  • by torie Location: crawfordville on May 22, 2007 at 10:41 AM
    i think that parents should stop blaming myspace for their kids actions... if you dont trust your kids enough then just delete their profile...its not that hard. im not saying i like the whole sexual predetor thing but parents need to take control of their kids.
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