A Very Blurry Middle Finger to Mugshot Websites
You probably know someone with a mugshot in a file somewhere. A friend who had one too many at the game. A coworker caught shoplifting. A neighbor busted after a brawl. These people would just as soon keep the past in the past, but there’s an industry dedicated to digging it up—and charging big money to bury it again.
Cirio scraped images from six websites (he claims to have 15 million photos) and used an algorithm to blur them. Then he created websites with slightly different URLs—Busted-Mugshots.us became BustedMugshots.com, for example—and did a little search engine optimization so his images appear alongside real mugshots. “When data is technically indestructible, obfuscation might be the last resort,” he says.
The project has ticked off a few people, and BustedMugshots.com sent him a cease-and-desist letter. But Cirio says he’s received dozens of supportive emails from people whose lives were upended by mugshot websites, and hopes it prompts a wider discussion. “I hope the viewers will demand the need for rights concerning personal information and reputation over the Internet,” he says. And keep the past in the past.
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