By using 1000 lines worth of code over several Perl scripts, former hacker and currrent Wired editor Kevin Poulsen was able to identify 744 sex offenders with MySpace profiles. 497 MySpace users are registered for sex crimes against children, with six of them listed as repeat offenders. At least 243 of the 497 have convictions in 2000 or later. Poulsen reveals in a Wired article how he helped to indentify and catch a known sex offender who was preying upon young boys through MySpace.
"In May, I began an automated search of MySpace's membership rolls for 385,932 registered sex offenders in 46 states, mined from the Department of Justice's National Sex Offender Registry website -- a gateway to the state-run Megan's Law websites around the country," Poulsen wrote. "I searched on first and last names, limiting results to a five mile radius of the offender's registered ZIP code."
The code that Kevin Poulsen quickly wrote was far from perfect and turned up many false or unverifiable matches. Poulsen then worked part-time to sift through the data and manually compare photographs, ages and other data.
"For every profile with warning signs, I found eight without," he continued. "In many cases, the sex offender's MySpace profile is a window into a seemingly normal life: Their comment board is innocent; their image gallery contains a wedding photo or two; the underage friends on their list, if they have any, turn out to be relatives, or adults lying about their age to game MySpace's old security model -- in which only 14- and 15 year-olds enjoyed private profiles."
The result of all that work culminated on October 2, 2006 when New York's Suffolk County Police Department apprehended 39-year-old Andrew Lubrano, who now faces his his fourth arrest for a sex crime over the last 20 years.
Today, Kevin Poulsen is releasing to the public the code he wrote that helped to identify sex offenders on MySpace. The download link may be found here, along with a few pages of explanation on exactly how the code works.