Monday, January 29, 2007

MySpace announces donation of sexual predator database to National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

CHILD PROTECTION DATABASE -- and SentinelTech will announce today that they are donating their Sentinel Safedatabase technology to the National Center for Missing & ExploitedChildren. (NCMEC). Sentinel Safe is a new database developed byMySpace and Sentinel Tech that enables Web sites and other thirdparties to effectively identify, remove, and block convicted sexoffenders from online communities.

While I am happy to see any technology that helps protect kids from sexual exploitation being used to its fullest capacity, I still don't see how this will have a serious impact on child's safety. How many registered sex offenders will continue to use their real names and pictures (that can be paired with mugshots) on myspace?

Wired ran a great story on this months ago. The journalist worked for months on pairing registered sex offenders (not just of kids, though) with members on myspace. He had many false positives. For example every "Ned Smith" profile may not be the same "Ned Smith" who is a sex offender. But he found about 700 who apparently matched up.

Several other media outlets followed this lead and ran the same search for their locale. Lots of registered sex offenders were outted on myspace and other sites. So did many law enforcement agencies.

But each of these searches had to be done laboriously and manually. Matching up sex offender registries with zipcodes and names, one by one.

MySpace has been trying to help protect their users (really) for two years now. They started by asking WiredSafety for guidance in early 2005. Our safety tips resided there for more than a year. Later, they joined forces with NCMEC and other groups as well. This software announcement is a repeat of an announcement made months ago about the alliance between MySpace and Sentinel. The software allows an easy pairing of the registry databases with the registration info at myspace. That will help identify the sex offenders who are stupid enough to continue to use their real names and locations and pictures on myspace.

(Actually, even if they take those down, the search descriptions on myspace continue to list the information after the changes are made on the profile itself. We have spotted this as a problem with teens who have now set their profiles to "private" while the descriptions continue to share too much info. So, the sex offenders (happily) might get caught even after they make changes.)

The Virginia Attorney General has proposed adding a requirement that registered sex offenders be required to share their e-mail addresses with the authorities. This can have a big impact. Not, as many think, because the sex offenders will disclose their addresses, but more (IMHO) because when they don't, their parole/probation terms will be violated and they can go back to jail.

That I support!

I just don't see how donating this technology is newsworthy. But perhaps, every little bit helps when kids and predators are involved.

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