However Your Logarithms Work

Kevin Poulsen has a great, disturbing article at Wired News about tracking sex offenders on MySpace. Poulsen wrote some custom Perl code to take names and zip codes from the national sex offender registry, which he then compared with names and locations in MySpace profiles. He turned up a great number of perfectly innocent profiles, a few quite worrisome ones, and at least one parolee actively soliciting young teenagers. Poulsen went to the cops, and rode along with them as they made the arrest.

The issues involved are too numerous and significant; I would like to point out just one. MySpace, claiming inability to do similar searches themselves, is lobbying for federal legislation to require convicted sex offenders to register their email addresses. Be careful what you ask for, MySpace. Poulsen juxtaposes the request with the following quotation from Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR):

“If you’re checking for the amount of skin in an image and that sort of thing, and however your logarithms work, you’d think you ought to check, you know, ‘John Doe’, who happens to be a sex offender, and weed them out.”