We originally published this post on our Online Privacy Blog, but we’ve updated it here as the story has progressed. (Originally published May 21, 2018.)
For many years, sites like Mugshots.com, Mugshotsonline.us, and Jailbase.com have profited off of the humiliation of people who had a run-in with the law. In May, in one of the lighter stories in online privacy, two alleged owners of Mugshots.com got a taste of their own medicine. After being arrested on extortion charges, money laundering, and identity theft, Thomas Keesee and Sahar Sarid had their own mugshots posted publicly online.
What is Mugshots.com?
Mugshots.com is a public online database that indexes recent arrests from around the country and makes them easily available online, accompanied by a mugshot and a description of the arrest. The site will take down the mugshot listing after paying the hefty fee– $399.
The site has a large disclaimer on the top of its homepage, saying “all are presumed innocent until proven guilty”, but they do not give any indication of what happens after the arrest. Here is their full disclaimer:
“DISCLAIMER NOTICE: ALL ARE PRESUMED INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY IN A COURT OF LAW. PUBLISHED MUGSHOTS AND/OR ARREST RECORDS ARE PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED PUBLIC RECORDS OF: AN ARREST, AN INDICTMENT, A REGISTRATION, THE DEPRIVATION OF LIBERTY OR A DETENTION. THE MUGSHOTS AND/OR ARREST RECORDS PUBLISHED ON MUGSHOTS.COM ARE IN NO WAY AN INDICATION OF GUILT AND THEY ARE NOT EVIDENCE THAT AN ACTUAL CRIME HAS BEEN COMMITTED. ARREST DOES NOT IMPLY GUILT, AND CRIMINAL CHARGES ARE MERELY ACCUSATIONS. A DEFENDANT IS PRESUMED INNOCENT UNLESS PROVEN GUILTY AND CONVICTED. FOR LATEST CASE STATUS, CONTACT THE OFFICIAL LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY WHICH ORIGINALLY RELEASED THE INFORMATION.”
As a result, many–such as Jesse T. of the Washington Post–have their mugshot posted on the website, even after having never been charged with a crime. This can make it extremely difficult to find a job, secure housing, or even start a romantic relationship.
Mugshots.com Alleged Owners Arrested
On May 17th 2018, two of the four men who are allegedly responsible for mugshots.com, Thomas Keesee and Sahar Sarid, were arrested in South Florida.
The arrests were made after arrest warrants were issued by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. He explained the issues that individuals with their mugshots posted online must face:
“This pay-for-removal scheme attempts to profit off of someone else’s humiliation,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Those who can’t afford to pay into this scheme to have their information removed pay the price when they look for a job, housing, or try to build relationships with others. This is exploitation, plain and simple.”
Both California and Florida have laws against soliciting or accepting fees to remove a booking photo.
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