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Sex offenders must hand over online passwords

Sex offenders must hand over online passwords

Privacy advocates are questioning an aggressive Georgia state law set to take effect Thursday that would require sex offenders to hand over Internet passwords, screen names and e-mail addresses.
Georgia joins a small band of U.S. states complying with guidelines in a 2006 federal law requiring authorities to track Internet addresses of sex offenders, but it is among the first to take the extra step of forcing its 16,000 offenders to turn in their passwords as well.
A federal judge ruled in September that a similar law in Utah violated the privacy rights of an offender who challenged it, though the narrow ruling only applied to one offender who had a military conviction on sex offenses but was never in Utah's court or prison system.
No one in Georgia has challenged the law yet, but critics say it threatens the privacy of sex offenders and burdens cash-strapped law enforcement officials.
"There's certainly a privacy concern," said Sara Totonchi of the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights. "This essentially will give law enforcement the ability to read e-mails between family members, between employers."
State Sen. Cecil Staton, who wrote the bill, said the measure is designed to keep the Internet safe for children. Authorities could use the passwords and other information to make sure offenders aren't stalking children online or chatting with them about off-limits topics.
Most states already make the addresses of sex offenders available online. Georgia is one of at least 15 states that have adopted laws requiring sex offenders to detail their e-mail addresses, user names and other Internet handles, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.


Updated : 2021-08-04 01:11 GMT+08:00