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MySpace this week asked a Pennsylvania state court for advice on how it could hand over information about registered sex offenders without breaking US data protection and privacy laws.

The firm is responding to calls from state attorneys general who last month demanded that the social networking site provide any information it holds to the authorities.

The lawyers said the site should reveal how many sex offenders it has found on its website, and hand over contact details and logs of personal communications.

Specifically, they want information on subscribers who appear in Sentinel Safe, a database containing names, physical descriptions, and other identifiable characteristics of sex offenders in the United States that MySpace has worked to compile with Sentinel Tech. The aim of the database was to make it easy for the social networking site to remove known offenders.

"Sex offenders have no business being on this site," North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said in a statement at the time. "We believe MySpace has a responsibility to get them off the site."

But MySpace refused, arguing that if it were to reveal this kind of information it would be in breach of federal and state privacy laws, as well as its own privacy policies.

Two weeks later, after sustained pressure from the legal bigwigs, MySpace did a u-turn and said it would deal with the requests on a state by state basis.

The firm says merely being positively identified on the Sentinel Safe database is not enough of a reason for it to hand over a subscriber's information. Under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, authorities must provide search warrants.

According to reports, executive vice president and general counsel Michael Angus issued a statement on Monday this week saying he was "pleased with how this process is working". The firm notes that it wants to hand over the data, but wants to do so in a way that will not compromise any future prosecution. ®

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