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My Space Pressured into Sharing Data on Sex Offenders

A concerted attempt is on in the US to rein in sexual offenders misusing popular networking sites and thus make the internet safer for everyone.

Social networking sites allow users to create online profiles with photos, music and personal information, and let them send messages to one another and, in many cases, browse other profiles.

The hugely popular MySpace had initially balked when attorneys general from eight states demanded data on registered sex offenders, but it has now given in.

The law officers wanted information on how many such offenders were using the site and where they live.

But the company stalled saying the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act required the states to file a subpoena or similar legal request before it could release the data.

MySpace, owned by media conglomerate News Corp., obtained the data from Sentinel Tech Holding Corp. The companies partnered in December to build a database with information on sex offenders in the United States, and it said it had already removed about 7,000 profiles out of a total of about 180 million.

The companies "developed 'Sentinel Safe' from scratch because there was no means to weed (sexual predators) out and get them off of our site," companys counsel Mike Angus said.

It was the Sentinel data that the attorneys general were of North Carolina, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania were requisitioning.

Quickly responding to MySpaces legal quibbling, North Carolina filed a civil investigative demand, and states including Ohio, New York and Connecticut also pursued subpoenas. Blumenthal said his subpoena "compels this information right away within hours, not weeks, without delay because it is vital to protecting children." "Many of these sex offenders may have violated their parole or probation by contacting or soliciting children on MySpace,
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