Security theater and online predators

Maybe, just maybe, lawmakers around the country, including here in Georgia, have overreacted with regards to internet predators:

The Internet may not be such a dangerous place for children after all.

A high-profile task force created by 49 state attorneys general to look into the problem of sexual solicitation of children online has concluded that there really is not a significant problem.

The Internet Safety Technical Task Force was charged with examining the extent of the threats children face on social networks like MySpace and Facebook, amid widespread fears that older adults were using these popular Web sites to deceive and prey on children.

Here in Georgia, legislators are taking extraordinary steps to “protect” children from online predators.

A new law that went into effect at the beginning of the year requires anyone labeled as a sex offender to turn over all online usernames and passwords:

Georgia joins a small band of states complying with guidelines in a 2006 federal law requiring authorities to track Internet addresses of sex offenders, but it is among the first to take the extra step of forcing its 16,000 offenders to turn in their passwords as well.

A federal judge ruled in September that a similar law in Utah violated the privacy rights of an offender who challenged it, though the narrow ruling applied only to one offender who had a military conviction on sex offenses but was never in Utah’s court or prison system.
State Sen. Cecil Staton, who wrote the bill, said the measure is designed to keep the Internet safe for children. Authorities could use the passwords and other information to make sure offenders aren’t stalking children online or chatting with them about off-limits topics.

Staton said although the measure may violate the privacy of sex offenders, the need to protect children “outweighs a lot of the rights of these individuals.”

“We limit where they can live, we make their information available on the Internet. To some degree, we do invade their privacy,” said Staton, a Republican from Macon. “But the feeling is, they have forfeited, to some degree, some privacy rights.”

Lawmakers are already using regulatory takings to force these individuals out of their homes, without any compensation whatsoever. I guess they shouldn’t have any privacy either, nor the presumption of innocence.

Politicians want to give the appearance of “doing something,” many times without any regard for personal rights and liberties. There is a line that a legislature cannot cross when it comes to privacy. The Fourth Amendment protects the rights of all individuals, including those who have paid their debts to society, to be “secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” Legislatures cannot continue to look the other way and cry “judicial activism” when courts strike down constitutionally questionable laws relating to sex offenders, which has happened in November of last year and as recently as last month, and could very well happen with this new law.

H/T: Reason

  • Akston

    This seems fueled by the kind of hysteria that’s become America’s most common response in the past decade or two. So many developments are evoking fear-based responses.

    This is not to say I’m throwing my hat in as “pedophile-friendly”. Far from it. But your post leads me to consider the question:

    How many “classes” of citizens should there be? Regular citizens and second-class-convicted-sentenced-served-and-released citizens? Will the constitutional guarantees be different for each class? I guess legally this may indeed be the case. Should it be?

    Shouldn’t the actual sentences convey the explicit and complete penalty assigned by the law? Maybe they do for sexual abuse in most states. I don’t know for sure. I’d be much happier with a system that spelled out exactly what rights will be forfeited when a person is convicted of a crime. If we want the convicted to never interact with society again, isn’t that what a life sentence is for? Or the death penalty, if that’s on the table?

    Making up new limitations as we go changes “the rule of law” to “the rule of men”. In that environment, we all stand to lose.

    “For as in absolute governments the king is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other.”

    – Thomas Paine