Internet abuse leads to mug shot proposal
There were 151 inmates lodged in the Yamhill County jail this week, including 14 with bail set at $100,000 or higher. Anyone with a computer can access the full booking reports, including photographs, but Internet publication of those mug shots would be banned by a proposed Oregon law.
Last week, I suggested that the proposal might quality for a “Golden Gobbler” award given to the legislative session’s “biggest turkeys.” Turns out, there’s more to it than I thought.
We’ve never received a complaint about Yamhill County’s online jail database, but people sometimes criticize our newspaper’s publication of mug shots accompanying crime stories. Jail booking photographs have become a generally accepted part of the public record, but the Internet has spawned a nefarious business practice bordering on extortion.
My thesaurus, by the way, lists several options for “nefarious,” including wicked, evil, despicable, immoral, reprehensible, disreputable, degenerate, infamous and perverse. Take your pick.
Operating under a cloak of anonymity, these website operators glean all available mug shots from law enforcement agencies for searchable online publication. There is a semblance of redeemable social value in allowing access to criminal backgrounds of people, but these website aren’t about social value.
Don’t like having your photo on one of those websites? Well, just hit the button titled “Click Here For Instant Mugshot Removal” and ask to have it deleted. But have your credit card ready, since the going rate for removing a mug shot is $99. And don’t be surprised to get higher-cost, blackmail-like offers to remove the photo from multiple other websites.
In Salem, HB 3467 would prohibit law enforcement agencies from publishing arrest mug shots on the Internet and limit public access to the photos. It would require a separate written request, submitted in person, for each mug shot, plus payment of a new fee for each request.
So, if an armed rapist escapes, each media outlet would need to send a representative to the local jail with a note and a check. If police need public assistance in finding a wanted felon, they could only hope that news outlets would take the time to appear in person and pay for a mug shot.
As written, HB 3467 would unduly restrict legitimate media reporting, but it’s hard to criticize legislators for being concerned about the new Internet practice. While the debate continues, there’s still one sure way to protect yourself against being victimized:
Don’t get arrested.
Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@news register.com or 503-687-1223.