Failed policy, no privacy and real danger
December 6, 2019
In today's day and age of technology, people are finding more creative ways to make money. The internet, access to advanced software, and the lack of privacy increases those opportunities, and when traditional, legitimate means to generate money fail, some will turn to a more sinister way to increase their income. It’s common knowledge that there is a new type of criminal out there, the intelligent, tech savvy, computer code whisperer looking for any way to exploit security software and obtain access to sensitive personal data. Identity theft, data breaches, robo calls, scam callers, they're all a part of the new reality of the times we live in, and there's no end to the lengths they're willing to go.
For one class of people, these threats go much further, beyond what most must fear, those that have been convicted of a sexual offense and find themselves on a public registry. In this era of online security threats and tech-enabled criminal activity, one's personal information has become of such value that the need to safeguard it has become an industry. However, the opposite can be said for those on a public registry. Their personal information has become a target, more exploitable than any other US citizen's. It’s public, free, and a ready-made trove for the criminally minded extortionist looking to make money off the backs of those already marginalized and struggling. This information has no online protection or firewall safeguards. In fact, even though the public registry does little to protect the public, more information is being added without regard to the negative effects it may have.
Registered citizens already have much on their plates, and now there is a wave of scam calls with criminals impersonating law enforcement officers. These people demand money over the phone or face arrest. These fear tactics have become widespread, spanning many states and have real law enforcement officials baffled. Their own registration offices have seen their phone numbers spoofed, used by scam callers while imitating officers from their department. Law enforcement Facebook pages are being trolled to know who to impersonate. All information online about a registrant and where they register is being used in full detail in order to make these calls believable.
Now there’s a new threat. It comes in the form of a printed and mailed extortion letter. The sender threatens an information campaign against a registrant if they do not pay hundreds of dollars each month. They claim they will make everyone possible, within the community they live and anyone their family associates with, aware of the crimes that placed them on the registry. They hide behind technology; demanding payment by bitcoin to protect their identity. These self-proclaimed extortionists, like the scam callers, utilize the public registry to track and determine every victim.
All these criminals are utilizing different forms of technology to seek, research, hide, or demand payment. Some have even been so bold as to knock on the door of a registrant’s home to extort money. These threats are possible because registries are public, the same registries that have been found to be ineffective. This doesn’t just affect the registrant. The family including innocent children are within the cross-hairs of these targeted crimes. Payments made to the extortionist will cause financial hardship. If not, their children face ridicule and bullying in school, and their spouses experience discrimination. It is a lose-lose scenario for a registrant’s family but win-win for an extortionist. They either make money or ruin lives out of hate. Besides threats of vandalism and murder, now extortion will follow them no matter where they live, work, or go to school. These are all constant concerns for someone on the registry because their privacy isn’t protected like everyone else’s. It’s blatantly exploited at the hands of criminals committing acts of hate for personal gain.
Registrants already must navigate through an array of laws and restrictions for the sake of policy that has failed, a registration scheme that has become nothing more than further punishment, banishment, and a scarlet letter of shame. Now they face being targeted more and more, without the same protections awarded other citizens. When did it become socially acceptable that anyone in our country has less right to safeguard their families from personal, physical, and financial attack? When will the privacy of ALL effectively become more important than the failed experiment of sexual offense-based registries? When these lists become more productive as a target for ridicule, hate, harm, and extortion, their failed purpose does not justify their proven punishment. The targets placed on entire families are not an unintended consequence, they are the only result.
December 6, 2019
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