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Could Florida's Mugshot Industry Be Coming to an End?

What we're all thinking: Will gems like these disappear from the Web if one Tampa judge has his way?
What we're all thinking: Will gems like these disappear from the Web if one Tampa judge has his way?

In Florida, it's practically impossible to escape one's poor decision thanks to dozens of websites that exist to repost mugshots and charge offenders to take them down. The effect of this cottage industry on vulnerable offenders is well-documented, and it can cost thousands of dollars to clear one's Google search results after being charged with a crime.

In 2011, Wired broke the story on how Florida's insanely liberal public records coupled with some algorithm profiteers were making a killing through humiliation tactics. The magazine piece focused on florida.arrests.org, which is run by a ex-con. Last October, the New York Times wrote about how mugshot sites tarnish peoples' lives long after they've been cleared of -- or served time for -- the crimes they've been charged with. (Full disclosure: Both New Times papers have re-posted mugshots in regular blog features.)

But all that might be about to change. Late last year, the New York Times reported that Google, Mastercard, Discover, American Express and PayPal wished to sever their ties with the industry.

The latest blow came last Friday, when a Tampa judge found that the republishing of mugshots for profit is in violation of a state statute. Arthur D'Antonio, who is behind the websites justmugshots.com and mugshots.mobi, must now face charges of privacy invasion and unfair trade. The statute in question reads: "No person shall publish, print, display, or otherwise publicly use for purposes of trade or for any commercial or advertising purpose the name, portrait, photograph, or other likeness of any natural person without the express written or oral consent to such use....

The suit against D'Antonio was filed by Shannon Bilotta, a Pinellas county woman who was charged with battery in June. The 43-year-old Largo woman's mug is still visible on the site. Justmugshots also features links to unpublishing services and other advertisements, a federal judge noted. The sites owner, D'Antonio, has 14 days to respond to the complaint against him.

Send your story tips to the author, Allie Conti.

Follow Allie Conti on Twitter: @allie_conti

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