Trading in the non-mugshot

Around the country, a bunch of law enforcement agencies post mug shots of people booked into their jails, and Ada County is one of them. It has seemed a reasonable enough service; the information (and the pictures) are public record, after all.

But there are always unexpected consequences, and in an eyebrow-raising article in the Idaho Statesman, Ada Sheriff Gary Raney is apparently considering ending the web picture posts. Without passing judgment about whether that would be the right move, this much is clear: His reasons for concern are sound.

The reason has to do with web sites like Mugshots.com, BoiseMugshots.com and arrestcentral.com, not linked to here because what they do is something disgusting: Post scraped versions of those mug shots, and then offer to take them down – for a price. (How much? One of them has a $159 scratched out wit the added message, “now only $99.”) And you’d only have to pay who knows how many such operations for the removal of something that’s publicly posted on a government web site anyway.

Raney’s comment was that “I really have heartburn over this. What we do serves a purpose. What they do is self-serving profiteering. … It’s distasteful, extortion-like activity. That is not our intent at all.”

But what to do about it is a tough question.

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