Last week, District Attorney Kamala Harris announced she was sponsoring state legislation to keep registered sex offenders from being able to use social networking Web sites. But would such a law be constitutional? Civil libertarians say no.
“Restrictions that ban sexual offenders from living near schools and
parks are tied to the idea that very young people use those facilities,
whereas social networking services are for the general public,” says Chris Hoofnagle, the director of the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology's information privacy programs. “Social
networking sites are so important today it would be like banning sex
offenders from using the telephone.”
Hoofnagle adds that the
law could affect non-sex offenders in having to prove they aren't a sex
offender to the online service by disclosing information to be compared to the sex offender registry.