Before you throw that punch to defend your girlfriend’s honor, better make sure you’re not in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee or Pasco county, Florida. A new website, tampabaymugshots.com, collects booking photographs and data for all arrest records in these counties and displays them in a shiny Web 2.0 tool in the war on the presumption of innocence.
In this latest illustration of something we can do but probably shouldn’t, the site’s creators throw privacy and human decency to the wind and remind us that this information is already available on the websites of the county sheriffs, and that they are merely compiling it on their site as a “public service.” (That’s funny, I thought the sheriff’s websites already took care of that – and without selling any ads for Cabot cheese…)
Even more flabbergasting are the site’s FAQs, which range from “I was arrested but cannot find my mug shot. What gives?” to “Are RSS feeds available?” (the answer: an ominous “Not yet.”)
The site does provide a grudging disclaimer. “Those appearing here have not been convicted of the arrest charge and are presumed innocent. Do not rely on this site to determine any person’s actual criminal record.” However, this disclaimer appears in tiny print underneath a nifty carousel of mug shots.
Sample tampabaymugshots.com mug shot
Sample sheriff website mug shot
So I ask you: where is the line between privacy and public safety? Is it okay to mash up any content we find on the web, regardless of its pejorative impact on the lives of those who may or may not be criminals? What about the argument that this information actually is available already on the public record, and that this site just makes it a bit easier to find?
When I began writing this post ten minutes ago, there were 227 people listed on tampabaymugshots.com. As I finish up, there are 232. Where will you show up on the web the next time I click refresh?