TAMPA - In the internet age, one mistake can live with you forever. That may especially be true if you live in Florida.
Florida Mugshots is a simple, bare-bones website that posts mugshot photos of people arrested in Florida. It's updated constantly throughout the day. In many cases, mugshots are posted just hours after an arrest.
The website even categorizes mugshots into groups like "Celebrities", "Grannies" and "Hotties". They even have pages called "Handicap" and "Wino".
Casey Anthony is listed on their "Most Popular" category, as is an 11-year-old boy arrested for aggravated assault and criminal mischief.
Someone unlucky enough to be featured on the website will have their photo listed along with the crime they're charged with and what agency arrested them. The mugshots are all part of public record, normally available to anyone who requests them from the arresting agency. These are people who have been arrested, but they may not have been charged or convicted. It's possible some have had charges dropped or were found not guilty.
How bad can this potentially damage one's future job prospects? According to a 2010 survey by Cross-Tab Market Research, 70% of recruiters and HR professional said they have rejected job candidates based on information they found online.
We Googled some of the names of people listed on the Florida Mugshots website. In some cases, their mugshot was the first listing that appeared, especially when we Googled their name along with the word, "Florida".
According to website registry records, the Florida Mugshots website is based from an address in Panama.
The I-Team contacted Florida Mugshots by e-mail and asked how to remove a mugshot from the website. We were told the site would remove people whose charges had been dropped or dismissed for free, as well as those whose arrests were sealed or expunged. However, you have to provide proof by e-mail.
People who don't fit that category can have their face pulled from the website for "a small administrative fee". The site advertises that for $9.95, they will take your picture down, though they add that it will take several weeks for your mugshot to disappear from a Google search. However, if you pay $19.90, they promise they can make your "digital dirt" vanish from Google in just 48 hours.
Mugshot websites are not unique to Florida. Many states have mugshot websites that charge fees for removal, and there are several websites that promise they can remove prior arrests from the internet, for a price. Law firms are even getting in on the growing issue of fixing damaged online reputations. Florida Mugshots, however, is one of the more comprehensive mugshot websites out there.
What do you think? Is this a fair use of information that's been part of the public record for years? Do people who are arrested deserve to be publicly shamed? Or are websites like these exploiting people?