Saturday, June 16, 2007

Unintended consequences (email addresses)

Reading through the proposed national guidelines for sex offender registration I had to laugh when I read the following:

On the other hand, some forms of public disclosure of this type of information—such as including sex offenders’ e-mail addresses as part of the information in their individual listings on the sex offender websites, which also include their names, locations, etc.—could raise serious concerns about unintended consequences and misuse. Posting of the information in this form could provide ready access by sex offenders to the e-mail addresses of other sex offenders, thereby facilitating networking among such offenders through the Internet for such purposes as: exchanging information about or providing access to child victims for purposes of sexual abuse; recruiting confederates and accomplices for the purpose of committing child sexual abuse or exploitation offenses or other sexually violent crimes; trafficking in child pornography; and sharing ideas and information about how to commit sexual crimes, avoid detection and apprehension for committing such crimes, or evade registration requirements.

The public safety benefits of public access in this context may be realized, and the risks and concerns addressed, by not including remote communication routing addresses or information that would enable sex offenders to contact each other on the individual public website postings of registrants, but including on the websites a function by which members of the public may enter, e.g., an e-mail address or phone number and receive an answer whether the specified address or number has been registered as that of a sex offender. In the case of a concerned parent as described above, for example, this could enable the parent to ascertain that the e-mail address of an individual attempting to communicate through the Internet with his or her child is the address of a sex offender, but without providing sex offenders access to listings showing the e-mail addresses of other persons who may share their dispositions to commit sexual crimes.

How naive! It has been proposed to give or sell such lists to public networking siteowners, or verify via the alternate method given above.

But it would be so easy for registered sex offenders to use this. Set up a public networking site and get the list. Okay, they'll close that loophole, no doubt.

But the address verification method is also usable. Let's say somebody sets up a sex-offender-only networking site calling it, oh, (It's to be a safe harassment-free space for registered sex offenders trying to go straight, okay? Forget the Dept. of Justice's silly, silly hyperventilation -- geez, if you don't want sex offenders sharing ideas, why do you lock them up for years together?)

All he has to do is to advertise USO and use the address verification method to keep the general public out... and the deed is done.

Best host it outside the country though, because the screeching and wailing that will ensue when it's discovered by the public will be incredible.


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