Wired's David Kravets has a long look at the sleazy world of online mugshot blackmail. Rob Wiggen, a convicted fraudster, founded Florida.arrests.org when he got out of prison. It scrapes Florida's law enforcement websites and builds a Google-indexable database of mugshots of people who've been arrested, making no distinction between people who are convicted, people whose charges are dropped, people who are acquitted, and even includes children as young as 11. Each is titled with the person's name and captioned like so: "Mug shot for Philip Cabibi booked into the Pinellas County jail." These show up in Google's search-results for the named people.
Companies like RemoveSlander.com and RemoveArrest.com charge hundreds of dollars to get images removed from arrests.org (arrests.org is festooned with lucrative, automatically placed ads for RemoveArrests, thanks to Google's ad-matching algorithm). They claim to use some "proprietary" process to do this, but Kravets speculates that they're just paying $19.90 and using the poorly signposted removal service offered by arrests.org itself.
It's a nasty story about the downside of government transparency, and Steven Aftergood from the Project on Government Secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists worries that it'll be a poster-child for attacking sunshine laws like Florida's open records system.
For $399, RemoveSlander promises to take that fight to florida.arrests.org, and force Wiggen to remove a mug shot. RemoveSlander’s owner, Tyronne Jacques — the author of How to Fight Google and Win! — said the removal fee pays for his crack legal team to deal with florida.arrests.org, and to force Google to get the URL removed from Google’s search index.
Asked how he accomplishes that, Jacques told Wired.com it was “a trade secret.” A recent press release from the company called the work “daunting.”
“It can’t happen by magic,” he said in a telephone interview. “There are legal means that we use…. There is a tremendous amount of work to get the photos down...”
Wiggen said he has provided RemoveSlander an URL for an automated takedown script on his site. A PayPal payment of just $9.95 will automatically purge a mug shot from the site. For an expedited removal from Google’s index, which Wiggen’s code performs through Google’s Webmaster tools interface, the fee is $19.90. Wiggen said other removal sites also make use of that same URL, but he declined to name them.
RemoveSlander “presses a button and makes a payment, and my website handles it automatically,” Wiggen said.
Founder Ron Wiggen does not include his own mugshot in the arrests.org database.
Mug-Shot Industry Will Dig Up Your Past, Charge You to Bury It Again
(Image: Robert Wiggen's 2005 mug shot, Leon County Sheriff's Office)
US court records are not copyrighted, but the US court system operates a paywall called “PACER” that is supposed to recoup the costs of serving text files on the internet; charging $0.10/page for access to the public domain, and illegally profiting to the tune of $80,000,000/year.
For months, ProPublica has been gathering the disclosure forms that reveal the financial holdings and employment backgrounds of officials in the administration of President Donald Trump.
Machine learning companies are making big bucks selling opaque, secretive sentencing algorithm tools to America’s court systems: the vendors of these systems claim that they are too sophisticated to explain, and use that opacity to dismiss critics who say the algorithms oversentence black and poor people.
The Pry.Me Bottle Opener holds tens of thousands of times its own weight, and you can pick one up now from the Boing Boing Store.This remarkable keychain is considerably smaller than any of your keys, but don’t let that fool you: it can easily open any bottle, and could even tow a trailer full of […]
Guaranteeing your privacy online goes way beyond checking the “Do Not Track” option in your browser’s settings. To ensure that your internet activity is totally hidden from Internet Service Providers, advertisers, and other prying eyes, take a look at Windscribe’s VPN protection. It usually costs $7.50 per month, but you can get a 3-year subscription […]
This project management bundle will help you get organized and learn how to lead a team to success. You can pay what you want for these five courses when you pick them up from the Boing Boing Store.To help you become an invaluable asset for your company, this bundle includes a curated collection of professional […]