The latest niche industries on the web are dubbed the mug-shot racket by Wired.com. Using Florida’s liberal public-records laws and Google's search algorithms, entrepreneurs are making money by publicly shaming people who've run afoul of Florida law. Florida.arrests.org, the biggest player, now hosts more than 4 million mugs. On the other side of the equation are firms like RemoveSlander, RemoveArrest.com and others that sometimes charge hundreds of dollars to get a mugshot removed. On the surface, the mug-shot sites and the reputation firms are mortal enemies.
Behind the scenes, they have a symbiotic relationship that wrings cash out of the people exposed. Florida.arrests.org is the brainchild of a computer-savvy Florida ex-con named Rob Wiggen. After his 2007 release, he was looking for more legitimate opportunities. He seized on the idea of repurposing the booking photos that Florida police departments are obliged to make public under the state's sunshine laws. Among his harshest critics is the reputation-management company RemoveSlander.com. “Thousands of people are being criminalized by mug-shot websites that collect ad revenue at their expense!” says the company's promotional YouTube video, “How To Remove Florida Arrests.org.”