News Corp.'s (NWS) popular Web network MySpace said on Monday it will donate a database on U.S. sex offenders to a center that tracks missing children, though state legal authorities warn the company has not done enough to protect youngsters on its site.
MySpace will donate use of its database, which combines close to 50 U.S. state registries on convicted sex offenders, to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). The center will use the database to help law enforcement in their investigations.
MySpace's critics said the measure failed to address a central threat to youngsters on its network from adult sex predators who pose as teens, one they say could be fixed with steps to verify users' ages on the site.
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"Protecting children is too important for MySpace to continue taking feel-good baby steps," Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said in a statement.
Blumenthal heads a coalition of prosecutors from 39 U.S. states that is considering legal action against MySpace, saying the network fails to protect teens attracted to its service to share photos, blogs , music and videos.
"We will consider every available option, including possible legal action, if the site continues to resist age verification," Blumenthal said.
MySpace has increased efforts to block convicted sex predators from the site. Earlier this month, the families of five girls abducted by adults they met on MySpace sued the company for negligence.
COLLECTING DATA NATIONWIDE
Sex offender data is currently collected by individual state authorities. MySpace and background verification company Sentinel Tech Holdings Corp. developed a technology that combines those registries to help police keep track of some 600,000 convicted sex offenders.
"We've come a long way from just the milk carton," NCMEC President and Chief Executive Ernie Allen said in a phone interview, referring to a long-standing program where pictures of abducted children appear on the side of milk cartons in the hopes a wider audience will recognize them.
MySpace struck a partnership with Sentinel in December to create the database and has been using it to identify, block or delete the accounts of known sex predators on its service, company executives said.
The database includes photo-matching software tools that can help authorities cross-reference photos or descriptions of predators against registered offenders, especially those who have failed to keep their registration up to date.
About 100,000 of the 600,000 offenders are so-called "non-compliant" cases, NCMEC's Allen said, making them difficult to track.
A national database with the cooperation of authorities and businesses that operate online communities could help, he said.
Hemanshu Nigam , chief security officer at MySpace parent Fox Interactive Media, said the company was in discussions with other companies to use the database.
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