Monday, November 10, 2008

Keeping the Internet Devoid of Sexual Predators Act (KIDS Act)

The Adam Walsh Child Safety and Protection Act was passed in 2006 and, among other things, created state public online databases of sex offenders and the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website through which all of the state databases could be accessed. Leveraging information technology, the Department of Justice has now put within everyone's reach information about sex offenders in their neighborhood. Visit the site, punch in your zip code, and get a graphical map displaying who lives in your neighborhood, their name, where they live, and what they were charged with.

It's easy to use and the results can be, unfortunately, surprising.

The Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website provides information about who is near you in the real world – but what about in the virtual world. What about on social networking sites. How do you know whether a person near you online is a sex offender? Your child may be discussing with a “new friend” how yesterday some one-hit-wonder-pop band is, or how good it is that Jagr left the Rangers and went back to Russia to play hockey. That “new friend” could be anyone.

Sen. Chuck Schumer attempted to address this problem with the recently enacted Keeping the Internet Devoid of Sexual Predators Act (KIDS Act). This new law would require sexual offenders to register their email addresses and another other online identifiers that they use. The Department of Justice will house this information in a secure database and permit certified social networking sites to securely contrast their subscriber lists against the sex offender database. The statute calls for this comparison to be secure such that the DOJ Database Operator cannot see the social networking site's list – and the social networking site cannot see the database – except for those records that match records on the social networking site's list (this security is possible using cryptographic measures).

Use of the service by social networks is voluntary, they must be certified, and they may not abuse the information they come to acquire from the database.

Registration of email addresses and internet identifiers is not voluntary for the convicted sex offenders; failure to comply may subject violators to up to ten years' imprisonment.

Upon passage, sponsor Sen. Schumer stated
“Millions of teenagers log on to websites like MySpace and they, and their parents, shouldn't have to worry about running in to these predators online,” Schumer said. “Sex offenders have no business joining social networking communities - especially those with teenage users - and our legislation will help keep them out. We know that many predators are using the Internet to find victims. This legislation will take a big step toward keeping sexual predators out of the online neighborhoods our kids frequent.”
The KIDS Act was also co-sponsored by Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and John McCain (R-AZ).

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