A group of registered sex offenders claim they were profiled by Arizona-based Internet companies, which mined their data and attempted to extort money from them in order to remove their information from their non-government sites.
In a civil suit, sex offenders and others claim the companies mined their information from law-enforcement websites, which list serious sex offenders and where they live, warning that the information can’t be used to threaten, harass, or intimidate individuals.
According to the Arizona Republic, the companies then attempted to extort money from the individuals, demanding up to $499 to remove names, photographs, criminal histories, addresses, phone numbers, and other personal information from their sites. Furthermore, claimants say much of the information they list is inaccurate.
Sex offenders say their profiles were not removed from Operators of SORArchives.com, Offendex.com and Onlinedetective.com after they paid the companies.
Arizona 12 News launched an 8-month investigation after receiving reports at Call 12 for Action. Investigators found the websites would harass those who refused to pay or filed complaints against them. They found individuals listed on the websites who are no longer required to register and do not even appear on state databases.
The companies went so far as to list the families and friends found on Facebook on an offender’s page.
“Enjoy the exposure you have created for yourself,” internet operators said in an e-mail to an offender in 2012. “Unfortunately you took (your) family with you.”
Being implicated on these websites can affect a person’s ability to get a job or a bank loan, even if they are not the one listed as the offender.
“I feel degraded, humiliated, harassed and intimidated,” said Gordon Grainger of Montana, a former registered sex offender who says he tried in vain to get his name removed. “I won’t lie. It’s gotten to the point where I have had suicidal thoughts.”
Complaints have been filed with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other federal agencies in five states: Arizona, Louisiana, Montana, Virginia and Washington.
No law enforcement agency has taken steps to correct the breach of privacy or extortion attempts.
Source: Arizona Republic