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New GA Law Forces Sex Offenders to Hand Over Their Internet Passwords

Privacy advocates say it goes too far

Dark Reading Staff

January 3, 2009

2 Min Read

A new state law in Georgia that orders sex offenders to provide authorities with their Internet passwords, screen names, and email addresses has raised privacy concerns.

The new law follows federal regulations passed in 2006 that require authorities to gather and follow sex offenders' Internet addresses, but the Georgia law kicks it up a notch by mandating that the offenders cough up their passwords, too, according to an Associated Press report.

The state legislator who authored the bill admits it may infringe on the privacy of sex offenders, but the priority is to keep children safe online. "We limit where they [sex offenders] can live, we make their information available on the Internet. To some degree, we do invade their privacy," said state Sen. Cecil Staton. "But the feeling is, they have forfeited, to some degree, some privacy rights."

Obtaining sex offenders' passwords will help authorities ensure that they aren't going after or interacting inappropriately with children online, according to the AP report. But privacy advocates argue that it would allow law enforcement to snoop into all of their personal email.

"There's certainly a privacy concern," said Sara Totonchi, with the Southern Center for Human Rights. "This essentially will give law enforcement the ability to read emails between family members, between employers."

The physical addresses of sex offenders are available online in most states, and 15 states including Georgia also require these offenders to provide information on their online presence as well. But only Georgia and Utah require that they provide authorities with their passwords, according to the report.

The penalties for sex offenders who fail to report their Internet user names and passwords include probation violations and imprisonment.

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Dark Reading Staff

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