A Houston, TX man, John Henry Skillern, was recently arrested under child pornography possession charges, and the reason he was caught is due to Google. The man emailed pornographic images of children through his Gmail account, which was then flagged by Google who notified the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
From there, the center advised Houston authorities who acquired a search warrant for the man’s home and confirmed the accused possession. Mr. Skillern is a convicted sex offender, and the action taken by Google in this case is clearly a good thing. However, despite the federal mandate for all US companies to notify authorities of possible child abuse, it begs the question of where Google’s monitoring of email and chat ends?
Earlier this year, Google was under an (eventually dismissed) lawsuit regarding email scanning. Since then, Google has updated its terms and conditions to reflect its stance that information which moves through a third party should not be considered private.
David Drummond stated, “We have built technology that trawls other platforms for known images of child sex abuse. We can then quickly remove them and report their existence to the authorities.”
David Drummond said, in reference to Google’s stance on child pornography on the web, the company is “proactively identifying child abuse images that Google can then remove from our search engine”.
During a recent court case surrounding the scanning of Gmail communication, Google said that “a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties”.
Google’s updated Terms and Conditions now state, “Our automated systems analyze your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored.”