ATLANTA – A law is set to take effect in Georgia Thursday that requires sex offenders to hand over Internet passwords, screen names and e-mail addresses.
Georgia joins a small band of states complying with guidelines in a 2006 federal law requiring authorities to track Internet addresses of sex offenders. But the state 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. That ruling applied to only 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 places an additional burden on law enforcement officials.
State Sen. Cecil Staton, who wrote the bill, says 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.