Last year, Google committed to reducing the flow of child porn through their services, adding 200 full-time staff to the task of building complex algorithms to scan for certain images and slashing pedophile sites from their search engine. Although Google is particularly diligent in their efforts, they are also just following the law designating ISPs as mandated reporters who have to report images of child sexual abuse to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
What’s surprising in this case is that the tip came from a scan of images sent over Gmail, Google’s free mail service:
A 41-year-old Houston man was arrested on suspicion of child pornography charges in an investigation founded on a tip that Google sent to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. “They got a tip, basically Gmail,” detective David Nettles of the Houston Metro Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force told a local news broadcast last week. The defendant, John Skillern, was being held on $200,000 bond and is a registered sex offender connected to a 20-year-old sexual assault on a young boy.
Naturally, getting a vile pervert off the streets is a good thing. Subjecting email to scans, however, goes beyond the limits of the law and is already causing concern in other areas. Google is accused of scanning keywords in emails in order to profile users and customize advertising, which runs afoul of various state and federal wiretapping laws.