Nobody looks good in their mug shot. And in an age when the first thing a prospective employer (or first date) does is run your name through the Google, the harm can go beyond bad aesthetics.
But mug shots are public record, so there is nothing to stop entrepreneurial types from collecting them by the millions on websites where they can live forever — regardless of whether you were cleared or never even charged.
Want the photo taken down? Ask nicely — or in some cases, pay up to hundreds of dollars. It may not be extortion, technically, but it sure feels wrong. The New York Times looks at the industry and its victims in a long story off its Sunday Business front.
But bad publicity cuts both ways. Get to the end of that article and you'll read that after the Times started asking around, Google put in effect a tweak to its algorithm that demoted the sites. And MasterCard (which called the business "repugnant") , PayPal, American Express, Discover and Visa all cut off the sites or took steps in that direction. The websites may find a way back from this financial wilderness, but for now, it's nice to see them squirm.