Date
22 November 2017
The arrest raises questions over the privacy of personal email and Google's role in policing the web. Photo: Bloomberg
The arrest raises questions over the privacy of personal email and Google's role in policing the web. Photo: Bloomberg

Google said to have revealed identity of child porn user

A 41-year-old man from Houston, Texas, was arrested after Google discovered child pornography in his personal email, BBC News reported, citing a local news report.

The search giant alerted a child protection agency, which then notified the police, according to KHOU 11 News. 

The arrest raises questions over the privacy of personal email and Google’s role in policing the web, BBC said. Google said it would not comment on individual accounts.

Local police told the local news station that Google detected explicit images of a young girl in an email being sent by John Henry Skillern. After the existence of the email was referred to them by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the police obtained a search warrant and arrested the man.

Skillern, a convicted sex offender, has been charged with possession of child pornography.

“I can’t see that information, I can’t see that photo, but Google can,” Detective David Nettles was quoted as saying.

“With the rate that Gmail messages are scanned, and the fact that all US companies are bound by US law to report suspected child abuse, it is hardly surprising that this individual has found themselves on the wrong side of the law,”  Emma Carr, of the privacy lobby group Big Brother Watch, told the BBC.

“However, Gmail users will certainly be interested to know what action Google proactively takes to monitor and analyze Gmail messages for illegal content, including details of what sorts of illegal activity may be targeted. Google must also make themselves very clear about what procedures and safeguards are in place to ensure that people are not wrongly criminalized.”

Google automatically scans email accounts to provide ads within Gmail, which has more than 400 million users worldwide, the BBC said.

In April, Google updated its terms and conditions to tell users that “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 came after a class-action lawsuit against the company over email scanning was dismissed earlier this year.

– Contact us at [email protected]

CG

EJI Weekly Newsletter

Please click here to unsubscribe