So there’s finally some good news out there for those people trying to deal with a long-ago mug-shot plaguing their current, law-abiding life–people who expunged their criminal records, or were arrested for a crime but never convicted of it, or who just grew up and moved on and tried to forget about that stupid mistake but couldn’t because of the prolific and obnoxious mug-shot websites out there which demand exorbitant amounts of money to remove a photo.
As I’ve written in other posts, state law-makers have been trying to make these sites go away, or play fair, for a while now, but they run into trouble with the First Amendment, which guarantees free speech and freedom of the press, and which these websites hide behind, pretending to be something akin to news outlets. But while they may have a First Amendment right to publish your mugshot, Google has a first amendment right not to publish their website–or push them so far down the list that no-one will ever see them. And it seems that’s exactly what it’s done, at least according to the New York Times.
After getting inquiries from the media, and, probably, a bunch of citizens, Google figured out that these mug shot web sites were violating its usage policies, and started punishing them appropriately. Apparently, some people whose mugshots were turning up at the top of a search for their name are now finding some good (or neutral) results instead. Paypal, Visa, Discover, and Mastercard are also starting to put the hurt on. It seems, with enough pressure, the private sector can step in to do “the right thing,” even when the government isn’t allowed to. Good riddance.