Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) is taking steps to demote websites which charge a fee for having mug shots taken in arrests removed. David Segal of The New York Times reports that these sites cause big problems for people who have been arrested because those mug shots tend to haunt them for many years, especially if they can’t afford to pay the fees to have them taken down off of all of the sites. They especially pose a problem for people who either were not convicted or whose record was officially wiped clean by law enforcement after they complied with certain conditions set forth by the court.


Google started penalizing mug shot sites last week

Last Thursday, Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) only just began demoting sites which feature mug shots. The sites charge between $30 and $400 to have the mug shots taken down, and the fee must be paid to each of the sites which posted them. As recently as a week ago, Google had not been penalizing mug shot sites in the way it penalizes other sites which take text from other sources.

Now, however, the search giant said mug shot sites don’t follow one of its other guidelines. It pushed out a change to its algorithm on Thursday which is specifically aimed at mug shot websites. These mug shot sites now appear further down on Google results, usually on the second page of results given when the name of a person is searched.

Financial companies oppose mug shot sites too

The New York Times contacted major financial companies like Mastercard Inc (NYSE:MA) and PayPal, both of which had been supporting mug shot websites by processing payments for them. MasterCard and PayPal both told the paper that they are working on terminating these sites as customers. Discover Financial Services (NYSE:DFS) and American Express Company (NYSE:AXP) said they were doing the same, while Visa Inc (NYSE:V) was asking its merchant banks to look into the sites’ business practices.