There is a small ring of companies that, over the past several years, have made a business out of digging through local police department websites to snag mug shot photos, and then make them publicly accessible. Offenders are then charged as much as $400 or more to get the mug shot taken down.
Although it may not seem like such a bad thing for serious criminals, it can be detrimental to the lives of minor offenders. So much so that both Google and some of the biggest payment providers are taking action against the mug shot extortion sites.
As some have mentioned, Google's search results should push sites that simply steal content from other sources into the background making them very hard to come by, but that hasn't been the case. When Google was first questioned about the scraped mug shots appearing so high up in the search results, it said that it was still working on fixing the overall issues with its algorithm.
However at this point, it appears Google has now implemented the changes, having pushed certain mug shots well back of the first results page.
Like we mentioned above, various financial institutions are taking action as well. MasterCard said it "looked at the activity and found it repugnant.” Reports say the company is terminating any clients that may be affiliated with mug shot sites. Similarly, PayPal has "decided to discontinue support for mug-shot removal payments," according to spokesman John Pluhowski. Both Discover and American Express also said they would be severing ties with these types of mug shot services.
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