Google’s New Fight Against Mugshots Sites Fails For Victim Profiled In New York Times
Google has a new system in place designed to prevent “mugshots” sites from ranking well. Such sites make money convincing people to “remove” their mugshots after posting them online. Only one problem. The person featured in a New York Times story yesterday as a victim of this unsavory practice still has his mugshot appearing, despite Google’s supposed change.
The practice of mugshot shots was profiled in the New York Times yesterday (and in our sister-site Search Engine Land earlier this year). The New York Times story leads with the story of Maxwell Birnbaum, who was upset that his mugshot was still appearing on several mugshots sites that, in turn, appeared in the top results on Google — making him less attractive to potential employers. The sites offer to remove those mugshots, for a fee.
From the story:
In March last year, a college freshman named Maxwell Birnbaum was riding in a van filled with friends from Austin, Tex., to a spring-break rental house in Gulf Shores, Ala. As they neared their destination, the police pulled the van over, citing a faulty taillight. When an officer asked if he could search the vehicle, the driver — a fraternity brother of Mr. Birnbaum’s who quickly regretted his decision — said yes.
Six Ecstasy pills were found in Mr. Birnbaum’s knapsack, and he was handcuffed and placed under arrest. Mr. Birnbaum later agreed to enter a multiyear, pretrial diversion program that has involved counseling and drug tests, as well as visits to Alabama every six months to update a judge on his progress. But once he is done, Mr. Birnbaum’s record will be clean….
At least in the eyes of the law. In the eyes of anyone who searches for Mr. Birnbaum online, the taint could last a very long time. That’s because the mug shot from his arrest is posted on a handful of for-profit Web sites, with names like Mugshots, BustedMugshots and JustMugshots. These companies routinely show up high in Google searches; a week ago, the top four results for “Maxwell Birnbaum” were mug-shot sites.
The story goes on to detail the practice of these sites, ending with the news that Google says it implemented a new ranking algorithm last Thursday to fight mugshot sites.
One person featured in the story, Dr. Janese Trimaldi, does appear to have her mugshots removed as the New York Times itself noted in the story, though ironically, now the New York Times story mentioning her arrest appears in the top listings:
But Birnbaum, who the entire New York Times story opens with, still has his mugshot ranking tops in Google for one site, as Julio Fernandez noted on Twitter:
So, whatever Google has done, it’s clearly not a perfect solution.
- Opinion: Why Google Should Crack Down Harder On The Mugshot Extortion Racket
- Google Launches Fix To Stop Mugshot Sites From Ranking: Google’s MugShot Algorithm