It looks like the Federal Government is finally taking Notice
However, the Mugshit industry is screaming loudly. Looks like someone is upset.
While I won’t link directly to their site, due to the fact that we don’t want to contribute to their SEO tactics, I will copy paste the rant from the most popular mugshot website regarding the June 19th complaint
We at Mugshits.com believe it is imperative that the Internet Crime Complaint Center’s (IC3) Scam Alerts dated June 19, 2013 must not go unchallenged. In particular, we take great exception to the Alert entitled “Websites Posting Mug Shots And Extortion.” According to its website, IC3 is a “partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C) to serve as a means to receive Internet related criminal complaints ….” Further, its so-called Scam Alert purportedly “details recent cyber crime trends and new twists to previously-existing cyber scams.
Yet a careful review of the particular Alert in question does not reveal a single cyber crime or cyber scam as is the express stated purpose of the Scam Alerts. All it contains is an uncritical recitation of self-serving, unsubstantiated complaints made by individuals who have had their mugshot and arrest records taken and subsequently posted lawfully in a legitimate online publication. Undoubtedly, the complainants find themselves in quite a vexing situation. They have been arrested, had their mugshot taken, and it has been posted online for all the world to see. Some may even have had a bad experience with very poor customer service or perhaps a single bad actor when dealing with a publisher of a website on which their mugshot was posted.
But even if there is merit to alleged complaints of that variety received by the IC3, they still do not amount to cyber crimes or cyber fraud of a generalized nature by all publishers who regularly post mugshots as is the unmistakable warning in the Alert. It is important to differentiate the various types of publishers who regularly post mugshots at the outset of the discussion. At one end of the continuum, there are those publishers who post only publically available government records in the form of mugshots and related booking information with virtually no original content, and at the opposite end of the continuum are traditional news organizations that regularly post mugshots and accompanying booking information but also post a wide array of original content including news stories in connection with particular mugshots, issued-related editorials, and topical blogs that alert and inform the public.
All private parties who publish mugshots in the standard course of their operations fall somewhere on this continuum. Mugshits.com is clearly positioned at the latter end of the continuum. Our activities mirror those of traditional news organization regarding the publication of mugshots and arrest records. We post mugshots online, and we also post a substantial amount of associated original content in our efforts to inform and engage our readers in connection with our mission to alert the public about who is living within their communities and provide transparency in government decision-making and actions. We publish over 1,000 news stories each month to accompany various mugshots that we post which provide insight into the backstory behind the mugshots and, where warranted, draw additional attention to a particularly noteworthy arrests. Just like any traditional news organization, we also publish timely and thought-provoking articles on a wide range of issues that frequently intersect with law enforcement activities and press coverage thereof such as freedom of speech, the public’s right to know, and similar issues.
With that said, we will turn our attention back to the IC3 Alert. Experience tells us that the Alert is directed towards the publishers at or near the former end of the continuum, not the latter end where traditional news organizations and Mugshits.com reside. However, experience also informs us that many otherwise thoughtful parties carelessly and incorrectly lump us in with the former group of publishers. As a result, we are accustomed to defending this group with whom we share very little in common, not out of any sense of esprit de corps, but an acknowledgement of the reality that as long as some parties perceive us as belonging to this group we will not permit misguided or baseless accusations to go unchallenged for our own sake. That is the reason we now challenge and systematically refute each of the allegations contained in the Alert on behalf of all targeted publishers which includes all non-traditional news organizations that publish mugshots. We will refer to this group as ‘Targeted Publishers’ throughout the remainder of this discussion.
The recurring theme during our refutation of the Alert is the impropriety of impugning all Targeted Publishers on the basis of limited anecdotal instances of allegedly poor service or a couple of purportedly bad actors. For the IC3 to do just that with respect to Targeted Publishers in general is alarmingly irresponsible and unprofessional. We at Mugshits.com regularly chronicle the arrests and convictions of law enforcement personnel for some very heinous crimes, yet it would be entirely inaccurate and irresponsible to mistrust and suspect the worst of all law enforcement personnel because of the many bad actors we provide coverage of. It is equally inaccurate and irresponsible for the IC3 to indiscriminately warn the public at large about all Targeted Publishers because of specific individual experiences or bad actors.
The Alert at issue contains five basic allegations against Targeted Publishers which constitute the basis for the IC3 issuing its cyber crime and scam warning levelled unmistakably at them all. We will address each of the five allegations in order and will demonstrate that the scope of the Alert is utterly without merit. Further, we will show that a truly thoughtful examination of the individual allegations does not reveal a single supportable finding of a cyber crime or scam even remotely sufficient to justify the issuing of the IC3 Alert against a specific company much less all Targeted Publishers. As we address each allegation, you will notice a pattern recurring—none of the allegations amounts to either a crime or scam as warned of by the IC3 Alert.
“Some victims reported they were juveniles at the time of the arrests and their records were sealed. Therefore their information should not be available to the public.”
This first allegation contained in the IC3 Alert is patently incorrect as a matter of law. It is extremely troubling that the authors of the IC3 Alert are either ignorant of that basic fact or they elected to publish this baseless allegation with full knowledge that it is false. Either way, the credibility and competence of the IC3 must seriously be questioned. Sealing or expunging a criminal record has no bearing on private third parties with legally obtained knowledge of the matter. There is a tremendous amount of confusion and misunderstanding among the general public (and unfortunately even among officials within the criminal justice system who ought to know better apparently even including the authors of the IC3 Alert at issue) about what sealing or expunging a juvenile record, or any criminal record for that matter, does and does not do.
There is no single, unified process of sealing or expunging juvenile records throughout the country since that right is granted by each individual state’s laws. States refer to the general procedure by different terms such as erasure, destruction, sealing, setting aside, expunction, and purging. Much of the misconception surrounding this topic is likely attributable to the fact that there is no single nationwide law, but instead 50 separate laws each utilizing different terminology and procedures. For purposes of this discussion, we will use the term ‘sealing’ generically to include all the various terms used across the states for the sake of simplicity and because that is the term used in the IC3 Alert.
While the actual mechanics of the basic procedure and specific details regarding its effects vary greatly among the states, the two principal elements that are universal to all laws sealing juvenile records are (1) the prohibition of government agencies and officials from acknowledging or otherwise confirming the existence of the sealed juvenile record, and (2) the right of the person whose juvenile record has been sealed to legally deny its very existence. It is vital, however, to stress that this legally sanctioned right to concealment of one’s juvenile record is not absolute. In fact, the degree of governmentally mandated concealment varies widely among the states depending on the party requesting the information and/or the circumstances surrounding the request. For example, depending on the state, sealed juvenile records must still be disclosed to the federal government; courts when sentencing in unrelated cases; application for a job with law enforcement or position that requires state licensure; unrelated criminal investigations; certain civil cases; and a myriad of other situations expressly set forth in the various state statutes. For an excellent state-by-state review of all 50 states’ laws on the sealing of juvenile records, we invite you to examine the material prepared by the State of Washington’s Joint Legislative Task Force on Juvenile Record Sealing, September, 28, 2011.
In broad terms, sealing a juvenile record prohibits government agencies and officials with information about the juvenile record in question from revealing that fact when asked if such a record exists or the details thereof, and sealing also authorizes individuals to legally respond in the negative when asked if they have a criminal record. What leads to much of the confusion and sense of righteous indignation among affected parties is the misconception that sealing juvenile records results in absolute concealment. It most certainly does not.
But perhaps what leads to even more confusion and consternation is the mistaken belief that sealing a juvenile record, or any criminal record, also compels private third parties to actively participate in the legal charade of concealment. That is simply not the case though most people mistakenly believe it to be so. The sealing of any criminal record does not require private third parties with lawfully acquired prior knowledge of facts subsequently sealed to either act or not act in a particular manner with respect to the sealed information. It may appear to some as a subtle distinction, but it is crucial to remember that sealing criminal records requires government, not private, actors in possession of the records or with knowledge of the underlying facts to conceal those records and facts. But it does not require private third parties to do likewise. Similarly, sealing a criminal record permits the person whose record was sealed to deny its existence, but it does not compel private third parties to join in on the deception being perpetrated on the rest of the public by denying the existence of the criminal record.
As an illustration of this basic fact, the New Jersey Supreme Court was confronted with this issue in 2011 in the case of G.D. v. Bernard Kenny and The Hudson County Democratic Organization, Inc. The Court unanimously ruled that the rest of the world is not required to remain silent and otherwise participate in the legal fiction created by the expungement (or sealing for our purposes) of a person’s conviction. While that case involved adult criminal records, the salient principles governing the sealing of both adult and juvenile criminal records are the same vis-à-vis private third party rights and obligations.
The case involved an individual referred to as G.D. who filed suit for libel against political rivals in a local election. They printed thousands of flyers stating that G.D. was “a DRUG DEALER who went to JAIL for FIVE YEARS for selling coke near a public school.” The flyer was based upon research which uncovered a 1993 drug conviction against G.D. However, G.D. argued that his conviction had been expunged and, as a matter of law, was a non-event deemed never to have occurred. Accordingly, he argued that truth could not be used as a defense.
The Court wryly notes that, “The relief provided, however, does not include the wholesale rewriting of history.” The Court goes on to state that, “[c]ommon sense tells us that an arrest or conviction may become general knowledge within a community and that people will not banish from their memories stored knowledge even if they become aware of any expungement order.” Finally, the Court rules that an expungement does not expurgate a person’s past and thus the facts contained in G.D.’s expunged record can be used as a defense to his libel claim and thus the claim is dismissed.
As we discussed above, sealing a criminal record requires government officials to conceal its existence and permits the person whose record has been sealed to deny its existence, but it does not require the rest of the world to join in on the concealment. If the information that eventually gets sealed has already become common knowledge or made public, then simply obtaining a court order sealing those records after the fact does not compel the rest of the world to forget, deny, or conceal that information.
This brings us back to the original topic of the current discussion, i.e., Targeted Publishers and the publication of juvenile criminal records that have allegedly been sealed. In situations where this exists, the websites would have obtained them from publically available government records which all publishers are indisputably within their rights to republish. Once those records were subsequently sealed, they would no longer be available from the original government source in accordance with the respective state’s record sealing laws. However, that court order compelling government sources to seal those records does not in any way compel private publishers of that information to unpublish them or otherwise deny or conceal their existence. No state law mandates such action, and the highest court sitting in the sole state to have addressed this matter to date has unanimously rejected the notion that sealing criminal records creates any obligation on private third parties to participate in the concealment effort.
Accordingly, even if the alleged facts contained in the complaints received by the IC3 are true, Targeted Publishers still have not committed any crime nor have they engaged in any scam whatsoever. Yet the IC3 Alert highlights these type of complaints as evidence of cyber crimes and scams being perpetrated by them. That allegation is entirely without merit, and the authors of the IC3 Alert knew or should have known it while preparing the Alert. To use those types of complaints in its ostensible effort to warn the public about cyber crimes and scams is outrageous since the specific type of allegation constitutes neither.
“Others stated the information posted on the sites was either incorrect or blatantly false.”
This category of complaint does not even articulate a cyber crime or scam on its face. All booking information posted by Targeted Publishers is obtained directly from publically available government records, generally the actual booking law enforcement agency itself, and posted verbatim. Any “incorrect or blatantly false” information posted was initially done so by the original government source and republished by private publishers. Republished government records in the public domain are only as accurate as the originating government source. Complainants’ true quarrel is with the respective law enforcement agencies that initially compiled and publically released the allegedly incorrect or false information.
Without a particularized reason to suspect otherwise with respect to specific material, government records are treated as presumptively correct. In general, there is no duty placed upon consumers of such publically available information to go beyond the face of government records themselves and perform wholly independent and exhaustive research to substantiate their veracity. The public is entitled to presume that government records are correct; as courts and commentators alike have concluded, to hold otherwise would be unduly burdensome and inefficient. Furthermore, in many cases, it would be impossible to independently corroborate the accuracy of the government record under investigation even if one were inclined to endeavor to do so. That is among the many reasons why the public is entitled to presume the accuracy of government records unless there is an identifiable condition that reasonably casts doubt on the presumption of accuracy.
Naturally, there are, indeed, errors in a very small percentage of the billions of publically available government records. When such errors are affirmatively discovered by interested parties, they must take steps to address the situation starting with alerting the original government source and complying with its established procedures for rectifying errors. Next, they would be well advised to notify any party who has subsequently made use of the purportedly erroneous government record and follow each party’s protocol for correcting inaccurate content under its control that is based upon erroneous government source material.
In recognition of the fact that errors will inevitably be present in some government records, every responsible private party who republishes any type of government records provides, to varying degrees, conspicuous notices alerting users to the fact that there is no guarantee claimed as to the accuracy of republished government records and that users who discover errors should contact the original government source of the publically available government record in question. Mugshits.com certainly displays this type of warning prominently to its readers as does every other similarly responsible publisher.
Turing our attention back to the second allegation in the IC3 Alert that Targeted Publishers are perpetrating a cyber crime or scam based on alleged complaints received from the public that they publish “incorrect or blatantly false” information, even if the substance of the alleged complaints are true, they still do not amount to either a crime or scam. We challenge the authors of the IC3 Alert to explain specifically how the republishing of properly obtained publically available government records which may contain unknown errors constitutes a cyber crime or scam. The challenge will undoubtedly go unmet because it amounts to neither, and the authors knew or should have known it at the time they drafted the Alert.
“Complainants who requested to have their mug shot removed, had to provide a copy of their driver’s license, court record and other personal identifying information. However, providing such information puts those at risk for identify theft.”
This allegation raises the question ‘what is the supposed cyber crime or scam’ at issue. It is not a crime or scam to request supporting documentation in order to ensure that the correct person is identified or to prove a particular disposition in a criminal case before acting. While it may not constitute a best practice or put clients totally at ease, that alone does not amount to a crime or scam. However, we must point out that Mugshits.com never requests this type of information, but that does not mean those Targeted Publishers who do are engaging in criminal or fraudulent activity. This allegation is nothing more than a concern of a generalized nature that is equally applicable to a myriad of everyday situations where a person is asked for personal identifying information.
By the express language of the IC3 Alert itself, no one is actually claiming that they were the victim of identity theft or any other form of financial fraud as a result of furnishing any personal identifying information to a Targeted Publisher. This allegation amounts to nothing more than a general consumer warning that could be issued with respect to any industry that requests such information from clients. In fact, in contrast to many other industries where there have been multiple confirmed reports of actual identity theft having occurred, we are not aware of a single documented case even alleging identity theft in connection with a Targeted Publisher. Notably, while it is true that critics of such publishers accuse them of all manner of things, identity theft has never been among them.
A generalized fear of potential harm is not a sufficient basis to accuse an entire lawful industry of perpetrating crimes or scams. This is especially true when there is not a single documented allegation of the potential harm ever having taken place within the industry. To make an allegation of crimes or scams under these facts is remarkably unfair and unjustifiable, yet that is precisely what the IC3 has done via the third allegation in its Alert. Once again, what is the cyber crime or scam which the IC3 feels compelled to warn the public about and besmirch all Targeted Publishers while doing so? Incredibly, the answer is arrestees have complained that they are allegedly uncomfortable providing personal identifying information to Targeted Publishers because of the potential risk of identity theft. Like each of the preceding allegations discussed and shown to be baseless, this one does not articulate any cyber crime or scam.
“Complainants were also subject to paying a fee to have their mug shot removed. Although they paid the fee, some of the mug shots were not removed. If they were removed, the mug shots appeared on similar websites.”
It is becoming quite repetitive by now, but this allegation fails to describe a cyber crime or scam. Charging a service fee to remove arrestees’ mugshot from a privately owned website is neither a crime nor scam. Not a single Targeted Publisher has ever been prosecuted by any law enforcement authority for this practice, and the inescapable reason for that fact is because it is not unlawful. The failure to prosecute even a single Targeted Publisher for simply charging a service fee is certainly not for a lack of effort. Arrestees and their supporters have been persistently urging their local and state authorities to do just that. But again, there is absolutely no basis in fact or law to criminally prosecute Targeted Publishers for any wrongdoing by charging a service fee.
The second portion of this allegation simply describes very poor customer service or the conduct of a limited number of bad actors among Targeted Publishers. This variety of complaint has been levelled by disgruntled customers at every single industry and profession in existence at some point. This is basically the generic ‘I did not receive the goods or services for which I paid’ complaint. While particular complaints against specific Targeted Publishers may indeed have merit, accepting payment and not providing the intended service is certainly not the standard industry practice. That fact is made clear by the language of the IC3 Alert itself by expressly observing the limited alleged prevalence of this occurrence with the use of the term ‘some.’ This type of complaint has been made against our most respected professions which have been around for millennia such as medicine and law and against the most esteemed multinational companies on the planet in every industry, yet we do not conclude the entire profession or industry operates in an illegal or unethical manner as standard practice on account of specific instances of meritorious complaints. Targeted Publishers are entitled to the same rational line of thinking when passing judgment on them as a group.
Similarly, the final portion of this allegation does not state a cyber crime or scam. All it does is acknowledge the fact that there are multiple Targeted Publishers operating lawfully within the industry. It is baffling why one would reasonably believe that an agreement with a particular private party would have any bearing whatsoever on other unrelated private parties. Under what theory could an arrestee expect that a service fee paid to one Targeted Publisher automatically entitles him or her to any rights or benefits from other unaffiliated Targeted Publishers? The mere fact that a person enters into an agreement and provides consideration to one member of an industry does not obligate every other member of that industry. Yet that appears to be the substance of the novel and naïve position being asserted by arrestees and unbelievably given tacit backing by the IC3 by publishing it in the Alert. It would be absurd for arrestees to argue that because they paid for admission to one theme park that they are automatically entitled to admission to all theme parks whether or not they are affiliated with the one for which admission was purchased based on the fact that they are all members of the same industry. Yet that is the functional equivalent of arrestees’ argument in the alleged third type of complaint.
The only way arrestees’ complaint could even pass the so-called ‘giggle test’ is if they could prove an industry-wide conspiracy that all Targeted Publishers are affiliated or colluding with each other for their benefit to the detriment of arrestees. Unfortunately for them, they cannot produce a shred of evidence to support this conspiracy theory because it is not true. In fact, there is a federal lawsuit that serves to conclusively dispel the notion of any industry-wide conspiracy for those who are capable of being swayed by rational argument and empirical evidence. On June 29, 2012, the operator of Bustedmugshits.com filed a federal lawsuit in Texas against the operator of JustMugshits.com accusing it of mining mugshots and associated data directly from its website. Those are certainly not the actions of affiliated or collusive private companies.
We now address the other possible cause for arrestees’ complaints. Some may have engaged an online reputation management (ORM) company in an effort to unpublish or effectively conceal their mugshot on the Internet. These are independent companies not affiliated with the various Targeted Publishers, so any promises made by them to prospective clients is solely their responsibility. Some of these ORM companies may have negotiated agreements with particular Targeted Publishers that facilitate the removal of mugshots from their websites.
These relationships benefit arrestees who want their mugshot removed from the Internet by speeding up that process and reducing the relative cost of achieving that objective. When an ORM company works cooperatively with a publisher in any industry in unpublishing targeted content, it greatly benefits the client since the publisher simply agrees to unpublish the content which is a far quicker and less expensive process than the alternative. The other way ORM companies operate is by rendering unwanted content effectively hidden from public view during Internet searches. This is a time-consuming and labor-intensive process that involves creating vast amounts of positive content and posting to the Internet in an effort to relegate the unwanted content to the latter search results pages which research shows only a miniscule percentage of Internet users access. Naturally, this latter method is far more expensive that simply negotiating with source websites to unpublish unwanted content.
The frustration experienced by some of the alleged complainants in the Alert may stem from their dealings with ORM companies that overpromised on what they could deliver. They likely did so by either not having negotiated unpublishing agreements in place with Targeted Publishers when they claimed that they could get their mugshot removed or unpublished from their websites or their techniques to conceal unwanted content were ineffective resulting in their mugshot remaining prominently on the first search results page. But neither scenario is a reflection on the behavior of Targeted Publishers. These actions are solely attributable to the respective ORM companies with whom the complainants may have dealt. Again, this allegation in the IC3 Alert does not amount to a cyber crime or scam by Targeted Publishers.
“If the victim threatened to report the websites for unlawful practice, the websites’ owners threatened to escalate the damaging information against the victim.”
The initial issue to address with respect to alleged complaints of this nature is what is the underlying “unlawful” practice of the websites? Without any further clarification provided by the IC3 Alert, we have to assume that the complainants are referring to the very existence of Targeted Publishers. This category of complaint can be dispatched with quickly. The operation of such websites by Targeted Publishers simply does not constitute a crime per se. Even the most ardent and vociferous critics of Targeted Publishers do not accuse them of criminality on a wholesale basis by their sheer existence. It is true that critics and their sympathizers object to the propriety of Targeted Publishers based on legitimate differences of opinion on public policy issues involving use of government records, privacy rights, government transparency, etc., but that is a far cry from accusing them of crimes. Their objection is over the ethics of the websites operated by Targeted Publishers as they perceive them, not their legality under current law. The industry as a whole by its mere existence and operation is not committing any underlying “unlawful practice” which would trouble any responsible Targeted Publisher in the least when confronted with all manner of familiar but hollow threats issued by disgruntled arrestees.
We now examine the portion of the unsubstantiated complaints involving alleged counter-threats by Targeted Publishers. As the preceding discussion illustrates, there is no cause for concern for responsible publishers when disgruntled arrestees threaten to report them for so-called “unlawful practice.” There is absolutely nothing to report since there is no “unlawful practice” taking place. There is simply no need whatsoever to issue a counter-threat when faced with a baseless threat of going to the authorities.
Having said that, every industry has unscrupulous members, and Targeted Publishers as a group is no exception. But, again, we do not have any of the relevant details which would provide all of us with a more complete understanding of what allegedly took place since the IC3 Alert merely contains unsupported self-serving general accusations made by aggrieved arrestees. For instance, we have no way of determining whether this behavior was allegedly perpetrated by a single Targeted Publisher or more than one. Additionally, even assuming for the sake of argument that this behavior of this nature occurred, we have no way of determining whether it was the result of a single poorly trained or belligerent employee with a specific Targeted Publisher or whether such inappropriate behavior was the standard operating procedure by the Targeted Publisher itself. That is, there is no way of knowing the alleged scope of the alleged abusive behavior. Without knowing that, it is impossible for interested constituencies to intelligently evaluate much less act upon the information contained in the Alert. Just like each of the four preceding types of allegations contained in the IC3 Alert, this fifth and final type does not describe a cyber crime or scam that is representative of all Targeted Publishers and certainly does not warrant the issuance of a public warning indiscriminately against all of them.
All it does is highlight the purported behavior of a limited number of unethical Targeted Publishers or their employees who in no way represent the behavior of the vast majority within the industry. In fact, responsible members of the industry are as eager for bad actors to be singled out and publically sanctioned as any other interested party since their inappropriate behavior reflects poorly on the entire industry. For example, a very limited number of publishers in the industry reportedly actively contact arrestees whose mugshot appears on their website or print publication and solicit payment for removal. This is the type of behavior that cast all Targeted Publishers in a very poor light. Mugshits.com like every other responsible member of the industry has a strict non-solicitation policy in place prohibiting any such behavior. The unethical activities of the outliers among Targeted Publishers do enormous damage to the reputation of all the responsible publishers particularly when irresponsible or agenda-driven parties, as appears to be the case with the IC3 Alert, use that conduct of the unethical minority to condemn all Targeted Publishers as a group.
It is extremely important, however, that we distinguish between the scenario alleged in the foregoing complaints and the situation that some Targeted Publishers experience when dealing with very aggressive arrestees. Not surprisingly, some very small number of arrestees who do not get their way when demanding their mugshot be removed on their own terms refuse to accept that fact. So they engage in persistent harassment campaigns against the specific Targeted Publisher. This generally includes, among other things depending on the specific incident, a barrage of telephone calls and emails to the Targeted Publisher. Some of the more technically savvy arrestees utilize the Internet and social media in their dedicated harassment efforts. Many of the messages include expletive filled tirades, threats of what they are going to do if they do not get their way, and even threats of physical violence. This is a markedly different situation than the type alleged in the Alert where complainants cast themselves as innocent victims of unprovoked abusive behavior by certain Targeted Publishers for simply exercising their rights. When confronted with these types of aggressive arrestees, Target Publishers naturally take appropriate and legal countermeasures to protect themselves.
A thorough examination of the allegations of cyber crimes and scams published in the IC3 Alert has shown that each of them is baseless. After addressing each alleged type of complaint listed in the Alert, there is not a single accusation that amounts to either a crime or scam of which to warn the public regarding Targeted Publishers. It is altogether irresponsible for a government-backed entity purportedly in existence for the legitimate purpose of warning the public of actual cyber crimes and scams to issue the Alert about an industry without including a single supportable allegation that constitutes either a crime or scam. After carefully reviewing each of the allegations, it appears that the authors of the Alert did nothing more than compile and categorize complaints received from arrestees before publishing them in a public release ostensibly warning the public. It further appears that the authors neglected to perform even the most superficial of reviews to determine whether the complaints actually articulate behavior, even if true, establishes a cyber crime or scam.
As a result, the Alert in actuality is no more substantive or useful to the public than the myriad of consumer complaint blogs and websites that now litter the Internet. But there is an exceptionally meaningful distinction between those privately operated sources which all informed users read with a measure of skepticism and caution and the IC3 Alert. The latter has the imprimatur of the F.B.I., and thus readers will generally accept its warnings uncritically as having merit. Ordinarily, one would be safe in operating under that assumption, but not in this case.
The Alert naïvely and uncritically repeats the complaints of arrestees who are angry at the operations of a lawful industry. It is their right to be angry and to express that hostility. We do not take issue with them for having voiced their complaints since we are utterly secure in the knowledge that we as a company as well as the publishing industry as a whole operate lawfully and responsibly. But for the IC3 to publish those unsubstantiated complaints and effectively bestow upon them legitimacy by characterizing the situations outlined by them as cyber crimes and scams evidences a reckless disregard for the truth. It is indeed disturbing that the preeminent law enforcement agency in the country would level such accusations against an entire industry based on such flimsy evidence that cannot withstand even the mildest scrutiny.
As we conceded, some complainants likely have had unacceptable individual experiences with a specific employee with a specific Targeted Publisher or perhaps even the Targeted Publisher itself. We do not doubt that there are troubled individuals working within the industry and even a couple of bad actors operating websites. Having said that, the same is true for any profession or industry in existence. We at Mugshits.com know all too well that even the most venerable of them contain an alarming number of very bad actors. No profession is immune from this scourge from the clergy to education to law enforcement to medical and legal. They all have their bad actors, and we write about them regularly. The proper way to deal with the situation is to identify and remove them from the profession, not damn the entire profession because of them. The same holds true for any bad actors among Targeted Publishers. When the IC3 Alert is viewed in this context, it becomes abundantly clear just how startlingly irresponsible it truly is.
Some people may not agree with or like Targeted Publishers based on their views on various public policy issues. We gladly engage critics in these public policy debates. Robust public discourse is a sign of a health democracy, and we appreciate the opportunity to be a part of these public conversations. But no serious critic accuses all Targeted Publishers of wholesale criminal activity or scams. They object to underlying public policy considerations such as the use of government records, arrestees’ privacy rights, etc. Critics may disagree with Targeted Publishers on the basis of personal ethics and public policy considerations, but that can be said about a great many perfectly legal enterprises. Our industry is certainly not unique in that regard. But the appropriate manner in which to object to the industry is through open and honest public debate, not a wholly unsupportable public indictment attacking the entire industry of cyber crimes and scams masquerading as a detached public service message issued by law enforcement. The Alert is disingenuous and misleading at best.
Even the language used in the Alert is misleading. The title of the Alert itself is misleading. It contains the term ‘extortion’ in it. If such a loaded term is part of the title, then there is an obligation to include examples of it within the text of the Alert, yet true to form, there is not a single supportable allegation of extortion in the entire Alert. The Alert ends on the same misleading note. Complainants are referred to as ‘victims.’ But of what are they victims? We have demonstrated that they have not been the subject of a crime or scam, so why are they being referred to sympathetically as ‘victims’ in the Alert? It is inaccurate and misleading to refer to them as such. The entire substance of the Alert is misleading and false to the extent it accuses all Targeted Publishers of cyber crimes and scams. The only victims with respect to the Alert are Targeted Publishers.
Their response and actions wreak of desperation and lies. However; just to give them a headache.. We have a littany of material which will refute all of the points in their response. The material is directly from the Federal Government obtained through FOIA requests. We are currently working on a script to convert all of the material into a searchable list that will include metadata for easy traversal of the documents. I can’t wait for the Headache our friends in the Mugshit industry will get when they see these documents, and the response their going to be forced to carefully compose. Grab your popcorn and Stay Tuned!
CD1 of FOIA complaints: http://rapidshare.com/share/2A737F8E090323A124611DA541E381F3
CD2 coming soon: