Says Google’s Algorithm Change Puts Americans At Risk

google-mugshot-criminal-featuredAbout a week ago, Google released an algorithm update we named the Google’s MugShot Algorithm. This update specifically targeted sites ranking well for names and displayed their arrest photo, name and details.

The new algorithm update impacted sites such as Mugshots, BustedMugshots and JustMugshots. responded to Google’s update with a blog post calling Google’s change a security risk to Americans.

Mugshots said, that “Google’s decision puts every person potentially at risk who performs a Google search on someone.”

They claim by not showing this arrest data for a Google search on a person’s name, it can potentially put someone in harms way.

Thanks to Google’s algorithm change, there is now an enormous public safety blind spot that puts every person in the country at potential risk who performs a Google search on someone with a criminal history—that number is in the millions. When the issue is viewed from the general public’s perspective, in contrast to the perspective of individuals who have been arrested, it becomes clear that Google’s decision leaves unsuspecting members of the general public at risk.

I doubt Google will change course with this algorithm change. Google obviously took their time to build this new change and made a conscious, not a quick, decision with this change.

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About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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  • Eric Westerman

    It’s laughable:

    1) We got along just fine for centuries without having instant access to a person’s mugshot on the internet
    2) If these sites were actually about public safety and justice, they would have policed themselves better
    3) Arrest data and background information is still available aplenty online for anybody who is actually willing to dig a bit.

  • Jonathan Hochman

    Google search is not meant for performing background checks. There are many legitimate background check firms that people can use. The mugshot sites do not provide comprehensive coverage, so they should not be used for a background check.

  • Raubi Marie Perilli

    You know it’s bad when the site is asking “Google to reconsider its recent change to its algorithm.” It’s kind of a shame that Google thinks mugshots are so important. Interesting read Barry.

  • Jeff Kingston

    Almost a good piece of link bait, other than the fact that nobody would ever read through that entire never-ending cascade of text :)

  • josh bachynski (SEO)

    The price of freedom, is rights being protected.

  • TriqNasty

    A criminal record of any kind is used by many as a static indicator of unsuitability. Because of its static nature, it is inherently unreliable as it does not take into account the fact that people change over time. and the rest are simply trading on people’s enjoyment of voyeurism and nothing else.

  • RyanMJones

    There’s no public safety blind spot or issue at all. Every state has a site where you can look up criminal records and every state has a police stations where you can obtain this information if you want it. The police stations and official state sites keep accurate records, these 3rd party sites DO NOT.

    The problem here is that thiese sites was keeping mugshots of people found not guilty or who had their records expunged or overturned – which causes undue harm to those people (and lots of libel claims.)

    I once helped an attorney client hunt down the owner of one of these sites to sue them. Their business model was charge the person money to have their photo removed, then add it back, charge them again, etc.

    They hid the site owners very very well, and I was only able to do it by finding an version that used their personal google analytics IDs in the past before they created a separate account for the site.

    These site owners are part of the scum of the internet. Good Riddance to those who take others content, make it less useful, slather it with ads, and spam links to rank.

  • Teresa Rothaar

    I agree with you. Usually, employers are the ones running these searches. If a company wishes to do a criminal background check on a job applicant, then they should run a proper background check with the authorities…NOT do a Google search. As you pointed out, the data on those sites is highly inaccurate, and includes the mugshots of people who were found NOT GUILTY, and/or had their cases thrown out of court and/or their records expunged.

  • Chenzo

    Extortionist lose here – case closed.

  • Randy Hilarski

    So sorry, that the mugshot companies lost their bread and butter. Life will be better without the extortion artists.

  • Greg Richmond

    The fact that you can pay to have your mugshot profile removed contradicts anything say about public safty, all they care about is getting paid.

  • Kyle Eggleston

    LOL. These Mugshot websites are feeling the algorithm updates like the rest of us now. I was thinking for a while that Google was only out to get me…

    These mugshot sites claim to exist for posterity’s sake, yet they collect a fee and don’t give anything back to society (at least to my knowledge). How about donating your “Unpublished Mugshot Service” fees to a victim help fun?

    Taking public arrest data and mugshots and using their domain authority to rank for your name is EXTORTION.

  • Guest

    Good riddance and go to hell, Mugshots dot com. For years you ruined peoples’ lives, all the while gaining boat loads of cash from your endeavor. You don’t care about the public. You never cared about the public. The local police departments cared about the public when they published the mugshots that you scraped and gamed to the top of the SERPs, often times with inaccurate information.

    I’ve seen your ridiculous philosophy, Mugshots dot com. Never forgive and never forget. Take your agenda somewhere else where people don’t care how scummy you are.

  • iPhone 5 News Blog

    That guy who runs/ran mugshots dot com is such a slime — he should be the one in the mugshot. For me, what I found to be the most compelling (in the NYT article that really exposed the mug shots racket) was how those sites are BUILT on SCRAPED CONTENT! We’re constantly doing our damn’dest to avoid duplicate content, and these nimrods get to scrape tons of free content and come up with page-one rankings. From an SEO standpoint, it just wasn’t fair. Bravo, Google! You were the good guy for a change!

  • richiepoor

    Cry me a river. These jerks are extortionists pure and simple. If they were so concerned about protecting Americans they would post the info for free. How many lives have they ruined and for what a few bucks. Even if one is ultimately proved innocent they will not remove the arrest information. How un-American is that? Arrest all of them, throw away the key and post their mugshots. See how they like it.

  • richiepoor

    Cry me a river. These jerks are extortionists pure and simple. If they were so concerned about protecting Americans they would post the info for free. How many lives have they ruined and for what a few bucks. Even if one is ultimately proved innocent they will not remove the arrest information. How un-American is that? Arrest all of them, throw away the key and post their mugshots. See how they like it.

  • TmWe

    (Thankfully) there is no UK version of a ‘mugshot’ site. They should have shown facts and figures substantiating the claim that USA was safer, say eg – in comparison to the UK, due to their website rankings, else I think their wall of text was hyperbole.

  • Career Sidekick

    I don’t know about the 3 websites that were specifically named, but I’ve read a lot about these mugshot websites putting up mugshots regardless of whether someone was convicted or not, and charging individuals hundreds of dollars to have their picture taken down.

  • Tyler Herrick

    I think this is so dumb; it’s not that you CAN’T find mugshot “info” for someone via Google search, it’s just now it’s not as important, especially when tons of people have the same name and even just seeing that in results could “poison” someones perception of said individual.

  • Ron Nader

    MugShot and the rest of them can go &$#@ for all I care…

  • Damian Straton

    Not good enough. Mugshots still showup in google searches. Problem for Google is, they have offices in the country where I AM LIVING and they are BREAKING THE LAW. They are on MY TURF so I will MAKE SURE to SUE THEM FOR ALL THEY ARE WORTH.

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