Google are scanning emails... but catching child abusers

5 August 2014

google-plus-logo Google have been relatively open about how they scan everyone's emails - it is so they can tailor adverts to customers and make loads of money. However, not everyone is happy about that, especially with all that NSA business.

However, reports say that a Google tip-off from the contents of a Gmail account ended up in the arrest of a child abuser from Texas. Police say Google told the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) about the content in an email sent by John Henry Skillern, who is a registered sex offender.

"He was trying to get around getting caught, he was trying to keep it inside his email," said Detective David Nettles. "I can’t see that information, I can’t see that photo, but Google can."

So what's going on?

Pictures are hashed which creates a unique code for an image. The hash is compared with a database of known child abuse images and, if they match, details are passed to the NCMEC (or, if you're in Britain, the Internet Watch Foundation, who Google actually give funding to). Then, a trained expert looks at the case and decides whether or not to pass it on to the police.

AOL also employ a similar system and they caught someone sharing illegal images last year.

The moral quandary is that, while the capture of child abusers is absolutely good and noble, Google and others are sifting through everyone's correspondence and repacking it for advertisers. With Google's buying of Nest, some people even think that they'll be able to spy on you via your thermostat (a bit like the Piers Brosnan robot house in The Simpsons).

So what's the trade off? If you're not doing anything wrong, should people be scanning your emails? Do you not mind because child abusers can be caught? Is this case being crowed about in a bid to try and distract users from something a bit dodgy going on? Or do we just accept it because this is how the internet works?

TOPICS:   Technology   Privacy

1 comment

  • Jeremy
    So just amend the contrast a slight amount & the hash will be totally different. Brilliant scheme.

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