The NY attorney general has proposed to create a registry where sex offenders list their emails and online profiles. The idea is to use this registry to prohibit the sex offenders from signing up for social networking services. Much of it seems to ride on the sanctions — you must register as a condition of parole — rather than on the technical ability of the system.
It’ll be possible to check whether these emails are actually being used, instead of being throwaway email addresses. Sending them regular questions, even using CAPTCHAs, can check whether a person is using that address. But this might not verify whether the offender is the person using the address. And further, it also won’t check whether the offender just went ahead and set up an address for social networking use only. In fact, that’s a good practice for all of us: to have more than one email address that is used for different purposes. It helps to protect against spam, helps us to keep our important addresses — the ones we give to friends — from being crowded with other communications.
It looks like the effectiveness of this program will depend on offenders fearing, or otherwise being ignorant of, the rather simple ways to avoid it. Then again, some offenders were on social networking under their actual names and addresses.