New Jersey attorney general subpoenas Facebook over sex offender data

The office of Anne Milgram, following the mold of an earlier subpoena against MySpace, has requested that Facebook turn over data pertaining to registered sex offenders who have profiles on the social-networking site.

Anne Milgram, the attorney general for the state of New Jersey, issued a subpoena on Monday against popular social-networking site Facebook, requesting that the company turn over information as to whether registered sex offenders have profiles on the site. The return date for the subpoena is October 12.

Milgram's office has additionally sent letters to 11 other social networking sites, asking that they release similar data. It's unclear as to which social-networking sites those are; representatives for the attorney general's office were not immediately available for comment.

"This is a matter of public safety, and more specifically, a matter of children's safety," Milgram said in a statement on Tuesday. "Social networking sites should not be virtual playing fields for sexual predators." The statement went on to say that a list of registered sex offenders in the state of New Jersey was sent to Facebook last month, and that the company said it had identified and removed an unspecified number of matching profiles. But according to Milgram's office, that isn't enough; the attorney general has demanded specifics, particularly names and e-mail addresses.

When a social-networking site has been riding as high as Facebook has for the past few months, it's only a matter of time before the safety concerns--and ensuing legal action--start to roll in. Earlier this year, subpoenas were issued by multiple state attorneys general against MySpace, then in social media's spotlight, and Milgram's office ultimately said the process led to the identification and deletion of 268 registered sex offenders' profiles in New Jersey alone.

Now that Facebook has largely replaced MySpace as the company capturing news headlines and valuation rumors, it's no surprise that it would have its turn in safety advocates' crosshairs as well. Late in September, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo issued against a subpoena against the social-networking site, but the terms were slightly different. Cuomo's office was more concerned about the site's overall claim that it provides a secure environment, even threatening that Facebook may face a consumer fraud charge for misrepresenting how safe the site is for minors.

In response to that, Facebook representatives said that the company is "committed to working closely with all the state attorneys general to maintain a trusted environment for all Facebook users and to demonstrate the efficacy of these efforts." Facebook has not yet responded to requests for comment with regard to the more recent subpoena from the New Jersey attorney general.

About the author

Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.

 

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