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  (Source: The Drunken Clam Dot Com)
Privacy advocates concerned about a strict new law in Georgia which removes sex offender's online privacy

The latest scuffle over online privacy is brewing up in Georgia.  An aggressive new law is set to take effect today which will force sex offenders to hand over their internet passwords, screen names, and e-mail addresses to the government for monitoring purposes.  Several other states also have efforts that track sex offender's email and screen names.  However, Georgia, which has 16,000 registered offenders, will be the first state to demand the sex offenders’ passwords as well.

A similar law in Utah was already struck down by a federal judge, who ruled that it violated the privacy rights of an offender who challenged it.  However, that ruling was rather narrow as it applied to an offender tried on a military conviction who had never been in Utah's court or prison system.

Critics of the Georgian law say that it not only violates the privacy rights of offenders, but it also places undue stress on the already tight-for-cash Georgian law enforcement.  Sara Totonchi of the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights states, "There's certainly a privacy concern.  This essentially will give law enforcement the ability to read e-mails between family members, between employers."

State Sen. Cecil Staton (R.) who wrote the bill argues that it is necessary to strip the rights of some citizens to protect the rights to life and liberty of others, particularly children.  He states that the benefits of the bill, which will allow law enforcement to detect stalking by predators sooner "outweighs a lot of the rights of these individuals."

He states, "We limit where they can live, we make their information available on the Internet. To some degree, we do invade their privacy.  But the feeling is, they have forfeited, to some degree, some privacy rights."

Most states do compromise sex offenders’ privacy to some extent by making their addresses available online in registries.  However, Georgia and Utah are the only states to propose legislation to take offenders passwords, according to civil rights researchers.  Others argue the bill isn't tough enough.  While the bill threatens violators with a possible return to prison, some believe this won't deter many.

Says State Sen. Staton, "My hunch is, where there's a will, there's a way.  If people are intent on violating this law, there are many different ways. What's important is we have given law enforcement a tool."

One critical issue at stake with the Georgian law is lack of specificity.  While the law is clearly meant to target offenders seeking to exploit children, it does not differentiate by crime.  Thus those found guilty of underage consensual sex, public indecency, or other sex crimes will likely be forced to turn over their passwords as well, bringing into question whether the law is targeting who it intends to.

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By Constitutional Believer on 1/5/2009 9:41:33 PM , Rating: 2
Just how far do you take the violation of civil rights? No, "privacy" is not in the Constitution. But, many scholars and judges have stated it is inferred in several areas, particularly in the Bill of Rights.

I am a former sex offender. What was my crime? It doesn't really matter other than it was in over fifteen years ago and was not predatory in nature nor violent. I spent several years on probation followed by a year in prison for violation of probation. What was my violation? Handling my accounting on a computer among lesser offenses like failing to respond to a page while oversleeping after working fourteen hour days for three months straight.

I've been out for seven years. I went from having nothing to owning a home. I took a credit score from 480 to over 750. For over a year, I was debt free and was slowly building a good nest egg.

Then, the Georgia legislature passed a law that took me from being a lawful citizen in my own home to an unlawful citizen in my own home; through no act of my own. Why? It was within a thousand feet of a pool owned by the home-owner's association. I never even used the pool and lived toward the other end of the complex.

For the next several months, I was forced to live in a motel while still paying a mortgage and a rent in the motel. There went my nest egg and shortly after, my available credit. My home sold at the tail end of foreclosure procedures; at a loss of $18,000 in equity. I walked away with barely a $1,000 in cash as a small token.

The Democrats want felons to have voting rights. In Georgia, once you complete your sentence all voting rights are restored. With pride, I walked into the poll during each election and voted... as a staunch conservative.

Basically, once you complete your sentence and you are NOT determined to be a predator or violent offender, what reason is there not to be allowed to live as an ordinary citizen? Even for those extreme cases, if you remove the ability for one to rebuild their life and enjoy their accomplishments both personal and professional, you only tear down their desire to further build their life and establish a life where they are least likely to offend.

Now, let's look at the cost placed on the citizens. These Georgia laws have done nothing more than turn sheriff's departments into probation offices. The number of deputies required for monitoring and enforcement have doubled to quadrupled at various agencies. That is manpower not available to investigate ongoing and more serious crimes than someone living too close to a swimming pool or church. Add to this, all of these changes required of sheriff's departments are an unfunded mandate. So, the legislature requires the sheriff to perform a duty without the funds to do so.

Then, state prosecutors and public defenders requested additional funding to the tune of over $100 million because of additional cases under this law. On top of that, consider more jail space is needed and the already backed-up court system is further clogged.

So, how much is needed? If anyone looks at these laws realistically, there is nothing they will accomplish but place additional burden on the taxpayer. Oh, and cause previously registered offenders to go underground. Just look at Florida after its laws went into effect. The absconder list in Georgia is already over 450. I'm not certain of its size two years ago but I'm sure it was considerably less than today.

Protect children? You betcha. But, let's apply some common sense in the process.

Think what you will of me. But, wiping out rights for the least among us is only a step toward eliminating rights for the rest.

"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive
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