As previously discussed, Google launched an algorithm update a few days ago (in addition to the latest Penguin launch) aimed at dealing with shady mugshot sites.
The New York Times put out a big article about sites that collect mugshots and make people pay to have them removed ranking well in Google results. Google’s update prevents them from doing so.
Some are criticizing Google’s timing on this, as the issue was discussed all the way back in February, when Jonathan Hochman and Jonah Stein wrote about the problem in an opinion piece at Search Engine Land. Danny Sullivan from SEL seems a little annoyed that Google appears to only have taken action when the New York Times wrote about it, despite his site having addressed it so much earlier.
In reality, as the NYT piece noted, Google has already had the update in the works, and Google’s Matt Cutts says the SEL piece actually contributed to the team working on to begin with.
@dannysullivan we were working on this algorithm for months before the NYT story. @Jehochman's writing, including in SEL, was a major spark.
— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) October 6, 2013
Either way, the update is out there now, and it’s probably going to help a lot of people’s reputations.
Hochman wrote in a new blog post:
Victims of the scam have been writing to me since February, explaining how these mugshots made it hard to get a job, rent an apartment, or even get a date. In our society we have courts to determine the fair punishment for a crime. Many people arrested are found innocent, have charges dismissed, or the record may be expunged upon completion of a treatment program. Sometimes it is in society’s interest for people to have a second chance after they’ve committed a minor crime, because we don’t want to create an underclass of unemployable people.
I’m very glad that Google did the right thing. A number of states have been trying to pass laws, and there’s at least one class action lawsuit pending. Instead of waiting for a patchwork of laws and court rulings that might not have been very effective, in one algorithmic swoop, Google appears to have cleaned up the problem.
@Jehochman @dannysullivan @mattcutts Glad action taken against some. Scraping & embarrassing people is terrible business model.
— Jonah Stein (@Jonahstein) October 6, 2013