Finding Sex Offenders Using Your iPhone

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Q: Now that I have children, I'm paranoid about registered sex offenders living nearby. Is there a way to keep their locations handy?

OffenderApp.jpgA: By tying data from the sex offender registry to an augmented reality platform and the geolocation capabilities of the iPhone, BeenVerified.com built an application that allows you to hold your phone up as you're walking around your -- or any -- neighborhood and see where convicted offenders are living.

Popular over the Halloween holiday with parents worried about sending their children to the door of a sex offender, the app, Sex Offender Tracker, recently enjoyed a big boost in sales. (Five percent of all proceeds will be donated to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network [RAINN].)

The app can be purchased for $1.99, but only works on the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 running iOS 4. A map mode shows registered sex offenders as pins from anywhere within one tenth of a mile to several miles out. And the augmented reality mode allows you to hold your phone up to see the addresses of offenders pop up in whichever direction your point your camera. All of the information available in the registry will also come up on your phone: pictures, names, offenses.

"During a demo ... I was able to pull up the profiles of 35 sex offenders in a one-mile radius of BeenVerified.com's offices on 28th and Park Avenue in Manhattan," wrote Lauren Indvik on Mashable. "A sobering number, to say the least."

The Sex Offender Tracker isn't the first iPhone application to make information from the registry easily available on your phone, but it is the first, as far as we can tell, to incorporate augmented reality. Offender Locator (also $1.99) was one of the top paid apps in the United States back in August 2009. The app generates a Google map populated with offenders' addresses using your current location or the location of one of your contacts.

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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