What are the ethics of posting mug shots online?
Tue, 23 Oct 2012 21:11:27 GMT —
You're arrested and your mug shot goes online. What are the ramifications? A South Carolina attorney has raised serious questions about the ethics behind posting mug shots.
Seth Rose, a defense attorney from Columbia, calls it legal extortion. A commercial website posts a mug shot and the subject has to pay them hundreds of dollars to get it removed.
If you click on "view photo" on an inmate's listing at Horry County's J. Reuben Long Detention Center website , the inmate's mug shot will pop up.
It's a popular feature on the website, but viewers must keep in mind that most of the suspects haven't been found guilty of anything yet.
If they're judged to be innocent in court or if the charges against them are dropped, jail officials will remove their photos for free.
"Once we get that court order to dispose of the records, we take the mug shots off," said Major Joey Johnson of the Horry County sheriff's office.
Johnson says old mug shots are also purged each year.
But by then, it may be too late.
Websites like Mugshots.com regularly post photos they've pulled from county jail websites all around the country.
If you want your mug shot removed from the site, they'll do it for you - for $399.
Johnson says the jail gets a few complaints about that, but there's nothing the jail can do.
"Once they pull the mug shots or the photographs, it's their property. We have no jurisdiction over that."
NewsChannel 15 called Mugshots.com to ask them about their policy of charging people to unpublish photos, but their representative refused to talk to us.
A professor of Interactive Media at Coastal Carolina University says the loss of privacy due to the Internet is a problem in many walks of life today.
Dr. Corinne Dalelio says people - and organizations - need to more conscientious of what they post online.
"Because once it's out there you can't take it back, it's like opening Pandora's box. You can't close it again."
Dalelio says mug shots are public information, and she wouldn't tell jails and courts how to do their business, but maybe they should think harder about what they put online.
"Once it becomes so easy to share information, that's when we need to start realizing, OK, maybe we shouldn't make it SO easy."
We here at NewsChannel 15 frequently post mugshots to our website. If we learn that charges have been dropped, we update the story and remove the mug shot on request.