Google Penalizes Mugshot Websites

ny times mugshot articleAfter a NY Times article exposing the shady nature of Mugshot websites and the harm, they cause to innocent victims who may have simply been arrested and never convicted of any crime Google has taken steps to demote websites in search listings. For a majority of individuals listed on these websites, this change has been enough to remove the majority of mugshot listings online. Ironically the person profiled in the NY Times article hasn’t his mugshot disappeared from the first page. That seems to be the case for a large number of people as we haven’t seen a decrease in the demand for our services. The fact is that our removal strategies are effective in the removal of all types of negative information appearing online.

Updated 4/06/23

In addition to the Google penalty, a large number of payment processors have decided to no longer accept payment for mugshot removal. Paypal, Mastercard, Visa, and Discover are no longer accepting payment for the mugshot websites although a few have found a way around that. There will always be some payment processor that is willing to handle payments in order to make some money. And a lot of merchants and buyers despise PayPal so I doubt they will even have any effect other than some negative PR for the industry and themselves.

Personally, we have seen a drop in a few different names and it seems that Google’s change will have the farthest-reaching impact out of all the various changes. After all, most people are on Google searching, and unless you have a mugshot or are in the industry you most likely won’t even realize that this change has taken place. So kudos to Google for burying these scumbag sites for a majority of the people listed on them. Or methods are 10 times more effective with the new Google update and we look forward to the help in putting these sites out of business once and for all.

Anyone with an arrest record knows of the embarrassment that accompanies the ordeal, from the booking and mugshots to having their arrest record haunt them personally and professionally by showing up on background checks for employment and housing. Unfortunately, the embarrassment does not end there. Many websites post mugshots for the entire cyber world to see, and essentially blackmail the victims of this scheme to have their mugshots removed from their website. While privacy laws on this matter are still unclear and largely debated, Google is taking a stand by virtually cracking down on mugshot websites.

Are Mugshots A Violation Of Personal Property

For many, posting mugshots online is an invasion of privacy. The mugshot websites, particularly JustMugshots, and BustedMugshots, beg to differ arguing that mugshots are public domain and as such, the right to post mugshots is protected by the first amendment. Meanwhile, people with an arrest record are continually being penalized for their arrest, regardless of whether or not the arrest resulted in a conviction. According to an article in the New York Times, one victim, in particular, is being deprived of employment “because the mugshot from his arrest is posted on a handful of for-profit Web sites…which routinely show up high in Google searches.” For this man, as well as so many others, these companies are hindering his ability to find employment, and are damaging his personal life.

According to these websites, however, mugshots are public records for a reason. They argue that they are rendering a service by posting mugshots, giving “the public a quick way to glean the unsavory history of a neighbor, a potential date, or anyone else.” While you might consider their services to be a civic duty, you could also chalk up their “services” to be a means of satiating the public’s bloodthirst for voyeurism and schadenfreude by creating a venue where the public can mock and, in some cases, even rate mugshots.

Regardless of which view you sympathize with, it is undeniably wrong to extort money from the people posted on these sites by making them pay large sums of money to remove their images from public view. At least Google seems to think so, which is why the popular search engine is cracking down on sites that profit from posting mugshots. These sites are violating Google’s algorithm by getting their images and text from third-party sources, as opposed to providing original material and being rewarded by being promoted to the first pages of Google.

Mugshot Website Google Algorithm Update

Mugshot websites will now accordingly be demoted for their violation by being pushed back into Google wasteland, which should hopefully discourage such websites from trying to profit off of the misfortunes of others. According to the New York Times, other major companies such as MasterCard, American Express, Discover, and PayPal are contributing to shutting down mugshot websites by terminating these sites as clients.
While the efforts of Google and these other major credit card companies are helping to stifle mugshot websites, they cannot legally prevent the websites from posting mugshots. Certain states such as Florida, Oregon, and Georgia, have passed laws stipulating that mugshot websites must remove posted pictures of those who have had their arrest sealed or had their criminal record expunged, free of charge, while other states such as Utah prohibits county sheriffs from distributing mugshots to websites that charge to remove embarrassing booking photos.

Though mugshot websites will continue to post booking photos, and predictable businessmen will continue to try and turn a profit at the expense of others under the shelter of the first amendment, big businesses such as Google and major credit card companies, along with laws of individual states, are standing up for those who do not deserve to be discriminated against. Former offenders can also protect themselves against mugshot websites by clearing arrests and other eligible offenses from their criminal record. Once a criminal record is cleared, former offenders can legally say that they have not been convicted of a crime and those with an arrest can deny the occurrence of the incident. Record clearing can potentially prohibit mugshot websites from posting mugshots, and profiting from the transgression.