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MySpace Donates Sex Offender-Tracking Tools

Social networking site MySpace took another step in its efforts to improve its record regarding online safety for children, announcing in conjunction with Sentinel Tech that they are donating their Sentinel Safe database technology to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

The Sentinel Safe database system is a tool MySpace has been developing to let it and third parties block sex offenders from online communities; the NCMEC will use the database as a tool to help law enforcement agencies. As of last monty, MySpace has been using the system to monitor its online community to flag and remove confirmed sex offenders.

“We’re pleased to join Sentinel in donating this important database technology to NCMEC,” said Hemanshu Nigam, MySpace’s Chief Security Officer, in a statement. “We believe it’s an extremely useful law enforcement tool and want to see it used as broadly as possible. It’s critical that we work together as we continue to innovate and develop creative solutions to reduce online safety risks.”

The Sentinel Safe database carries information on about 600,000 registered sex offenders in the United States, and combines the information with image-based searching. The NCMEC will use the information to assist federal, state, and local authorities with cases including missing children, Internet-related crimes against children, locating registered offenders, and possibly even identifying fugitives. The Sentinel database receives the most recent updates from local sex offender registries; NCMEC will act as a liaison between law enforcement and the database. MySpace and Sentinel Tech will provide all research and development necessary to tailor the system to the NCMEC’s needs.

The NCMEC employes a number of other public databases in its efforts, but many are limited to matching on names, ZIP codes, and registry numbers. The ability to search on facial characteristics, tattoos, and other details of appearance may be a significant benefit to the agency. The NCMEC acts as the key clearinghouse for information gathered by federal, state, and local authorities..

The move is MySpace’s latest effort to counter criticism that it doesn’t do enough to protect its members—especially teens—from online predators. Earlier this month, the families of four teens whose daughters were assaulted by adults encountered via MySpace sued the social networking site. Just last week, the site announced it would, in conjunction with the NCMEC, carry Amber Alerts warning users of possibly kidnapped or missing children in their area.