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Feud between MySpace, state AGs heats up

MySpace says request to turn over data pertaining to sex offenders is illegal; attorneys general respond with hints of legal action.

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
The state attorneys general who asked MySpace.com to turn over the names of registered sex offenders who use the site aren't buying its argument that federal and state laws stand in the way.

MySpace Chief Security Officer Hemanshu Nigam released a statement to the press Tuesday night, asserting that the social-networking site's partnership with identity verification firm Sentinel Tech Holding had resulted in the immediate deletion of any sex offenders' MySpace profiles located over the past 12 days, but that the AGs' original request is prohibited by law anyway.

"We are doing everything short of breaking the law to ensure that the information about these predators gets to the proper authorities," Nigam wrote. "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."

Specifically, Nigam cited the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986. "The ECPA prohibits us from disclosing the information they're seeking without a subpoena," he said, "but we want to work with the attorneys general to find ways to get the information into the right hands."

Some of the AG offices declined to comment, citing the fact that MySpace's statement was directed to the press rather than to the states and could thus not be considered an official response. But others, like North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, issued statements calling MySpace's logic faulty.

"The vague reference by MySpace to federal privacy laws certainly failed to justify a complete refusal to cooperate--or insistence on a subpoena for all information," Blumenthal, who called the social networking site's actions "inexplicable and inexcusable," said in a statement Wednesday. "If MySpace wants a subpoena, we will seek one."

Cooper's statement reflected a similar opinion. "It's outrageous that MySpace chooses to protect the privacy of predators over the safety of children. We will take action to require MySpace to give law enforcement and parents the information we need to protect our kids."

MySpace did not immediately respond to requests for further comment.