The CBC reports that MySpace, in collaboration with Sentinel Tech Holding Corp, is now using the software Sentinel Safe to locate and subsequently remove registered sex offenders from the site. The software works by comparing the data of the sex offender registry to the information in users' MySpace registration, including name, age, hair color, distinguishing marks, and hopefully in the future, email addresses.
I have two seperate problems with this, neither of which have anything to do with defending sex offenders. 1) Do people really think sex offenders on the prowl on MySpace would provide their actual name, age, or other information? Furthermore, do you think, with the ease in using public computers and signing up for free email addresses, sex offenders looking to do no good would honestly register all of their email addresses? 2) What is implicit in this project is that the administrators of the website regular troll your personal information in order to surveille and regulate their site. Why do we have rooted problems with the government doing so, and yet none with commercial websites? MySpace is only one example of the freedoms we extend to commercial ventures and yet fight against in RL (for instance, zero intellectual property rights in MMOGs).
Obviously, in theory the idea is pretty nice. But you know what really protects people against sex offenders, including children? As I noted in my previous post, media literacy. This includes navigating virtual communities where a person could come into contact with just about anyone. Instead of assuming that the structures of a given site will protect you or your kids, teach them and yourself how to deal with people online, including keeping your personal information guarded, never making plans to meet someone alone, and always keeping in mind that anyone could be behind the adorable screen name.