|--- Mug-Shot Industry Will Dig Up Your Past, Charge You to Bury It Again --- |
"Philip Cabibi, a 31-year-old applications administrator in Utah, sat at his computer one recent Sunday evening and performed one of the compulsive rituals of the Internet Age: the ego search. He typed his name into Google to take a quick survey of how the internet sees him, like a glance in the mirror.
There were two LinkedIn hits, three White Pages listings, a post he made last year to a Meetup forum for Italian-Americans in the Salt Lake City area. Then, coming in 10th place — barely crawling onto the first page of search results — was a disturbing item.
“Philip Cabibi Mugshot,” read the title. The description was “Mug shot for Philip Cabibi booked into the Pinellas County jail.”
When he clicked through, Cabibi was greeted with his mug shot and booking information from his 2007 drunk-driving arrest in Florida. It’s an incident in Cabibi’s life that he isn’t proud of, and one that he didn’t expect to find prominently listed in his search results four years later, for all the world to see.
The website was florida.arrests.org, a privately run enterprise that siphons booking photos out of county-sheriff databases throughout the Sunshine State, and posts them where Google’s web crawlers can see them for the first time. Desperate to get off the site, Cabibi quickly found an apparent ally: RemoveSlander.com. “You are not a criminal,” the website said reassuringly. “End this humiliating ordeal … Bail out of Google. We can delete the mug-shot photo.”
Wiggen’s own mug shot is noticeably absent from florida.arrests.org. “Of course I’m not going to have my mug on my site,” he told Wired.com.
His year-old business has earned him enemies. Wiggen said he receives about 100 angry e-mails, and a few snail-mail letters, every day from people whose booking photos are displayed on his site. “Obviously, they’re really nasty,” he said of the messages. “I never thought I’d get this backlash from individuals. I just never imagined it.”
Among his harshest public critics is the reputation-management company RemoveSlander.com. “Thousands of people are being criminalized by mug-shot websites that collect ad revenue at their expense!” snarls the company’s promotional YouTube video, “How To Remove Florida Arrests.org.”
“Even defendants whose cases were dismissed are finding their mugs hot on the internet,” the company’s website adds. “Every time someone clicks on your page to view your mug shots, sites like Florida Arrests earns a little more cash from Google…. We have perfected the art of fighting mug-shot websites.”
For $399, RemoveSlander promises to take that fight to florida.arrests.org, and force Wiggen to remove a mug shot. RemoveSlander’s owner, Tyronne Jacques — the author of How to Fight Google and Win! — said the removal fee pays for his crack legal team to deal with florida.arrests.org, and to force Google to get the URL removed from Google’s search index."