Google defends scanning Gmail which helped track sex offender

Google has defended itself after helping authorities in arresting a sex offender by scanning his Gmail account, saying the nature of the illegal content warranted its automatic search.

It was reported yesterday that a 41-year-old restaurant worker from Houston was arrested after Google informed authorities at the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children of the presence of child pornography in the man's Gmail account.

Although the email scanning has helped authorities nab the suspect, internet rights activists have been critical of the company's email crawling practices and usually protest on social media. In order to clear its side of things Google has now issued a statement to AFP.

Google has explained that, like all internet companies, it is required to deal with child sexual abuse and have a system in place to identify such content. The Google representative reiterated that the company uses this technology only to identify child abuse and no other forms of criminal activity that may be taking place using its services is monitored. Microsoft also has a similar email scanning policy, which ignores crimes such as IP theft, since the recent backlash from the online community after the arrest of former employee and Windows 8 leaker Alex Kibkalo.

Back in November, Microsoft and Google had committed to developing mechanisms to curb the spread of child pornography and it is a positive outcome of such efforts that the culprit has been brought to justice.

Source: Yahoo News | Image via Google

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I agree, although the point here isn't that the system is being criticised for being ineffective, it's being criticised because people are concerned for their privacy and haven't bothered to take note of how the system works, what it picks up, and what Google then do with the information.

Nagisan said,
My biggest problem with this system is it only goes after people who re-distribute child porn, not those who create it (due to how it works, it uses a database of known content, therefore it cannot detect something as a positive result if it has never seen it before).

On the other hand, it's a legitimate tactic to fight 'supply' by cutting off 'demand'.

Joshie said,
On the other hand, it's a legitimate tactic to fight 'supply' by cutting off 'demand'.
Or it will have the reverse effect and people will create their own supply instead of relying on the supply of others.

Nagisan said,
Or it will have the reverse effect and people will create their own supply instead of relying on the supply of others.

I'm confused. What solution are you arguing for?

Joshie said,
I'm confused. What solution are you arguing for?
The solution that goes after the source of the problem (that is, the people who abuse children).

IMO the current solution is the equivalent of a crackdown on drug users, with little effect on the drug distributors.

Not that the re-distributors should be ignored and left alone, just that the solution in this article doesn't do much to stop the problem.

Does any of this matter? Its already legal for the US government to read any and every email over 180 days without a warrant.

Considering what the outcome is, I've no problem with what Google did either. Doing it to serve me ads? No thanks. Doing it to catch scumbags? Go for your life, Goog.

warwagon said,
Are registered sex offenders dumb enough to re-offend over email?

All people do incredibly stupid things when they lack the necessary perspective.

What Google claims their system is used for, and what it actually may be reporting and logging, are 2 very different things.

Its not really about the specifics of this case. Its what the system is capable of. If history has taught us anything, its that govt and companies NEVER reveal the truth.

Well, the way that reporting to the NCMEC works is that you submit a report with as much information as you can about the suspect AND send the original images. Then the NCMEC checks the reports and images. If there is something that is CP, then the NCMEC contacts law enforcement who handles everything else.

Providers are required to proactively report child abuse to the NCMEC per act of congress. A large amount of child porn is explicitly under age. (Anything from babies and up.)

Poof said,
Well, the way that reporting to the NCMEC works is that you submit a report with as much information as you can about the suspect AND send the original images. Then the NCMEC checks the reports and images. If there is something that is CP, then the NCMEC contacts law enforcement who handles everything else.

Providers are required to proactively report child abuse to the NCMEC per act of congress. A large amount of child porn is explicitly under age. (Anything from babies and up.)


Did not know that.

I don't know why people care so much about their free email service being monitored for illegal activity. If you want privacy, disconnect.

One less Pedophile, isn't anyone forgetting about this much more important thing than that privacy issue? Catching a criminal anyone?

kljs said,
One less Pedophile, isn't anyone forgetting about this much more important thing than that privacy issue? Catching a criminal anyone?

Privacy is much more important than catching cirminals.

I am surprise any of this is admissable in a court of law !

We are certainly on a slipperly slope here.

First they came for my search, and no one spoke up
Then they came for my glasses, and only a few called me a jackals
Then they came for my Nirvana Nevermind Album Cover and Pedobear raped my G-mail

Seriously pedophiles should be hung by their testicles during football halftime shows

"... the nature of the illegal content warranted its automatic search"
How was it known that there was illegal content in the first place unless the search had already happened? This is an attempt to justify the search because it found something.

In retrospect there is some poor bastard in Google that has to maintain their kiddie action pics for the scanner. Ugh...

I don't use Google services any more, I will never buy another android phone and I generally disagree with most of their practices, however on this issue I applaud them.

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