Houston (USA) police arrested a man who was reported to be sending child pornographic images via Gmail. This crime has only been deplored thanks to Google’s automated system which scans through emails searching for such illegal content. However, the emails are still scanned for the purpose of assigning ads to users’ accounts dashboard.
A man indulging into child pornography has been arrested thanks to Google. Wow, at first glance, this seems to be really impressive, not to mention laudable – Google helping to fight crime against innocent children. Wait till you hear how this was made possible. John Henry Skillern was arrested by the police of Houston when they were alerted by Google. Google became aware of the illegal activities of the man by scanning through the man’s Gmail account for any suspicious content being exchanged online. Child porn comes under the heading of ‘suspicious content’.
Ok, now, wait. Does this mean that Google is used to scanning people’s Gmails? Yes, digest the news, reader.
But, hey, if this were not the case, the terrible man rejoicing over poor kids’ pictures would not have been apprehended by the law. But… However praiseworthy this deed of Google might be, some are very much against the company encroaching onto people’s privacy. Just because some sick people out there choose to derive pleasure from child pornographic content using Gmail to come to their ends does not mean that innocent users are to have their privacy invaded, right? But, is this really the case?
According to cyber security expert John Hawes, the images Skillern sent had previously been marked with unique digital fingerprints that allow for them to be identified later. Google’s automated systems have been able to capture the fingerprints and have thus detected the suspicious activity. Then, the Gmail account of Skillern was flagged. That was how Google has been able to report the crime. In fact, it is upon Google to divulge any such information.
However, the trouble is that Gmail accounts are scanned specifically searching for child pornographic content. Google issued an official statement to defend its activities: “It is important to remember that we only use this technology to identify child sexual abuse imagery – not other email content that could be associated with criminal activity (for example using email to plot a burglary)”.
Google does scan Gmail user content. That is how one can view ‘relevant ads’ next to the Gmail dashboard. The scanning is done for Google to assign these kinds of ads.
It still insists that the system they use has as purpose only to search for child pornographic content.
Well, it still makes the users uncomfortable, right?