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Summary:

Sites that post mug shots humiliate people and damage their career prospects — and engage in a form of blackmail by demanding people pay to take them down. Google, MasterCard and others are starting to respond.

A group of websites has built a thriving trade by posting arrest records online, then demanding anywhere from $30 to $400 from users who want to remove the compromising images. Lawmakers have so far failed to put a stop to the sites, but now the the mug shot industry faces a new challenge that could imperil its business model.

According to the New York Times, Google last week made adjustments to its algorithms, thus booting sites like Mugshots and BustedMugshots off the front page of its search rankings. Meanwhile, companies like MasterCard and PayPal are moving to end payment support for the sites.

The move is good news for people whose pictures appear on the sites — even if they are never convicted of a crime — and suffer humiliation and career damage as a result. And paying to remove a picture from one site often leads to the image popping up on another site that likewise demands money.

The response by Google and the payment processors comes at a time when state lawmakers are struggling with how to deal with the mug shot sites: while the sites’ business model may amount to extortion, the pictures they show are taken from public records that are valuable to journalists, safety advocates and others.

Image by Rob Byron via Shutterstock.

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  1. Yeah, right, and if google&friends deny access to website, payment methods and legal ways to remove the picture, how am I suppose to have my face removed?
    It’s not that if they don’t appear in google the don’t exist, you know.

  2. The mug shot is public information.

    If you don’t like it, don’t get arrested for something. BE NICE.

    1. With all due respect, lots of innocent people get arrested. These companies are extortionists, taking advantage of SEO to turn a Google search about you into a page full of arrest records, unless you pay them for the rest of your life. It’s a disgusting practice. Glad to see Google try to kill off this industry.

  3. StMarie Patrick Wednesday, October 9, 2013

    most places will not look at that sight, companies will just do a google search to see if any thing comes up with news problems and stupid things you posted. They do a back ground check to see about all the other criminal problems you might have done. Now if you were not guilty, they will not judge you on being arrested. Remember your not guilty until proven guilty…Being arrest is not guilty!!

  4. I have found it very valuable — one guy I was about to get serious with showed up for the same crime 3x — these sites can be a godsend!

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