Cyber Culture: Mugshots are forever (well, that's what website blackmailers would like you to believe)
Rhodri Marsden is the Technology Columnist for The Independent; he has also written about crumpets, Captain Beefheart, rude place names and string. He's also a musician who plays in the band Scritti Politti, and won the under-10 piano category at the 1980 Watford Music Festival by playing a piece called "Silver Trumpets" with verve and aplomb.
Wednesday 09 October 2013
One of the perils of the internet is that one moment of stupidity can lead to a lifetime of infamy. Many of us have embarrassing moments immortalised online, text or pictures that have been digitally embalmed and are stubbornly resistant to any attempts to have them removed. All we can do is reconcile ourselves to it being out there and keep our fingers crossed that no one finds it.
But that isn't easy for Americans who've been arrested and had their mugshot snapped by a police department who then upload it to the internet as a matter of public record. The free availability of names and pictures of people who've been apprehended on suspicion of various offences has led to a burgeoning publishing industry both on and offline, with magazines such as Nab Shot and websites such as mugshots.com displaying rows upon rows of miserable looking people in starkly lit police stations.
But while magazines come and magazines go, online information sticks around, and the unerring talent these mugshot websites have for appearing high in search engine results ends up causing much distress, particularly for those who were arrested but not actually convicted of any crime.
The ugliest part of this, however, is the way that loosely affiliated websites then offer you the chance to have your mugshot page removed for a fee of several hundred dollars. As these pages are scuppering people's chances of securing jobs, housing and even dates, many are coughing up the cash – but with no guarantee that the same mugshot won't pop up again on another site.
Many states have been passing legislation to stop what amounts to extortion, but those on the right will protest that this is simply free enterprise at work, and that any publication of mugshots is a powerful deterrent to anyone considering committing an offence.
In the UK, police forces have demonstrated reluctance to release photos of detainees (in contravention of national guidelines) and, perhaps predictably, this was described by the Daily Mail as a "human rights farce". But those whose lives have been ruined by mugshot websites know that whatever their past misdemeanours, the internet is not a forgiving place.
Their predicament has been marginally improved this week with the news that Google has, in a rare display of corporate conscientiousness, altered its algorithm to push mugshot sites down the rankings and off the first page of search results. But with vast potential sums to be made from a devastatingly simple business model, the activities of the mugshot publication industry are destined to become a lengthy game of cat and mouse.
Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt
When teaching the meaning of Christmas backfires
Life & Style blogs
Alexander McQueen at auction: What makes a really great piece of fashion?
A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
No female ejaculation, please, we’re British: a history of porn and censorship
Stressed nurses are 'forced to choose between health of patients and their own'
Pornhub: Kim Kardashian's sex tape is the most-watched porn video of all-time
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
iJobs Gadgets & Tech
£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Web Developer/Designer - WordPress, PHP, HTML...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global 3D visualisation compa...
£28000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: SQL Developer - Derbyshire, commutab...
£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: SQL Developer - 12 Month Fixed Term ...