MySpace responds to states' request for sex offender data

Formal response from the social networking site claims that attorney generals' original request was illegal.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
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.
Caroline McCarthy
2 min read

MySpace responded Tuesday afternoon to the letter sent by eight states' attorneys general Monday requesting the popular social networking site to turn over data pertaining to registered sex offenders who have profiles on the site. The letter, signed by the attorneys general from Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania, requested that MySpace respond by May 29 with a count of how many sex offenders' profiles have been located as well as a plan for how to deal with them.

The News Corp.-owned site had provided a less detailed statement Monday.

The formal statement, attributed to MySpace chief security officer Hemanshu Nigam, said that the social network has been doing "everything short of breaking the law" to ensure that sex offenders' profiles are discovered and removed. "MySpace has zero tolerance for sexual predators," he wrote, "which is why we devoted a team of engineers to work around the clock with Sentinel Tech, to develop the nations? first proprietary software dedicated to identifying and removing sexual predators from online communities."

According to Nigam, MySpace has been proactive: "In the 12 days since the software has become operable, we have deleted and removed every registered sex offender that we identified out of our more than 175 million profiles."

But he said that the states' request was actually illegal under the terms of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA): "A few Attorneys General have asked us to turn the names of the sexual predators over to them, we are, unfortunately, prohibited by federal and state laws from doing so." To clarify, Nigam later added a comment on Tuesday evening to the earlier statement, emphasizing that MySpace is "more than willing to provide this information as long as we don't have to break laws to do it."

Nigam instead suggested that politicians could be taking different measures to combat sex offenders' presence on sites like MySpace. "We need cooperation from lawmakers to drive mandatory sex offender email registration legislation at the federal and state level to make blocking predators from community-based websites a more efficient process," Nigam wrote. "Our hope is that the Attorneys General who signed onto this letter, and other websites, join us in pushing this legislation into law."