In the 1980s visiting any post office had a certain flair of a corkboard usually off to the side with a clipboard of FBI most-wanted individuals. As we migrated towards an internet society, those FBI or most wanted posters seem long gone and replaced by internet variants ranging from mugshot sites to phone apps to keep track of your neighbors. While many argue that the sex offender registry is the most controversial form of public shaming, I would say that the internet, in general, is perhaps the worst offender of all.
A most wanted list, maintained by a law enforcement agency, is a list of criminals and alleged criminals who are believed to be at large and are identified as the agency’s highest priority for capture. The list can alert the public to be watchful, and generates publicity for the agency.
When the internet was first introduced into our homes, it was an open library of content where anything could be researched in the privacy of your own home without much scrutiny or regulations. Most of all, the internet through the assistance of AOL, CompuServe, Netscape, and many others became the forefront of information. At an early internet period, the net was more inclined to be a source of stock traders, news junkies, email, and instant chat well before the established cell or smartphone. However, during the introductory period of the internet era, there was a level of civility and level playing field that everyone respected boundaries and information sharing. There was not a vast data-mining field of information or credit card sharing. But the information about personal lives was kept at a minimum.
Today the internet is not only a necessity but a part of American culture and society. Governments, corporations, businesses, and people rely heavily on social media, data mining, and e-commerce. The internet of long ago has morphed into a large giant that cannot be slain. But the most remarkable part of the internet is that governments can publish anything it wants to publish without much knowledge in the long term of its consequence or destruction. When government leaders publish sex offender statistics or personal information that information is data mined towards reality, property tax, and statistical crime servers that maintain those records for a lifetime. There is no need for businesses to challenge the information because the information is already deemed credible because it comes from a government agency – even if the information is no longer relevant.
For example, if a registered offender moves from Texas to Oklahoma, the old Texas address will continue to display inaccurate information despite a registrant is now living elsewhere. That means two properties are currently undervalued only because a registrant resides at one. Better yet, a registrant may go on vacation in Florida and re-register according to state law but immediately leave. But that data will eventually creep into a server somewhere to be shared and reshared despite the fact that the registrant is no longer in Florida. This will subsequently create a tier of inaccurate economic data that risks devaluation of properties, municipality taxation rates, and could impact revenues because of how the registry is used in a public manner.
According to a new survey, 52.8% of Internet users believe that most or all of the information online is “reliable and accurate.” … That people are gravitating from the television to the Internet, especially for information, is, of course, extremely good news–at least content providers.
It is safe to say that the registry isn’t a problem. Instead, the internet and data mining is the most critical problem because it cannot be regulated on the fairness or accuracy of information. After all, the internet is an entertainment value rather than an educational or informative standard. It is free speech-based and protected as such, whereas it has difficulty in challenges by the courts. Government data is much more regulated and can be sunshine or sequestered at a council meeting. Many advocates have suggested that internet information should have a time-sensitive expiration date before moving into an archive for historical use only. But as long as companies use data without challenge, the expiration data scenario will be either buried in fine print or ignored.
The most wanted posters were a world where danger was credible by allowing the public to alert law enforcement of a wanted and dangerous individual. Today the internet has created a scare tactic that everyone is a potential threat and danger to the community ranging from mugshot to registry websites. It is no wonder that 911 call centers experience the highest number of calls when a new app is released or mentioned by the press. Police resources today are not focused upon deadly shootings in preventative measures because there is too much emphasis on registries and apps that allow a measured value of cyberstalking but in the name of community service.
Perhaps the sex offender registry advocacy ambition to change the minds of politicians has exhausted much of its resource? I would argue that the next phase in criminal justice reforms and managing data accuracy is to begin challenging large internet companies and data corporations that continually allow inaccurate data to be a part of its product and content. Bringing lawsuits to organizations that potentially damage the credibility of market values and revenue streams for governments should be registry advocates and municipalities newest challenge to discover methods to get the information right and maintain that information in a proper format.