Finding Sexual Predators? There’s an App for That.

By  |  Monday, July 27, 2009 at 3:45 pm

Sex Offender iPhone AppFor ninety-nine cents, iPhone users can download an app called Offender Locator to locate sexual offenders in their vicinity. You might be surprised what you learn, even if you’re not personally worried about sex offenders at the moment.

Offender Locator was reviewed on TechCrunch today. The app has become one of the top ten paid offerings in iPhone store despite the fact that the same information has already been available on the Web for some time.

Offender Locator leverages the iPhone’s built-in GPS to locate local U.S. sex offenders, or alternatively, users can input an address manually. I installed it out of curiosity about how many offenders were listed around me in Manhattan. The GPS function did not work, so I entered in my mother’s address.

Lo and behold, the first result was someone that I knew. It was a neighborhood man who used to idle his car and chat with me at the corner while I waited for the bus to come and take me to my junior high (I had seen him around while I was jogging after school). My mother always told me not to take him up on his offer to “learn how to play pool” at his house, and her instincts were prescient.

With this app, she could have validated her concern, and altered other neighbors about the man’s unusually attentive behavior toward a minor.

My take is that making it easier for a parent or guardian to access information that can protect a child is a good thing–even if a nominal fee is included. It is worth nothing that selling people’s personal information can run afoul of some state laws.

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