Child-porn suspect Skillern caught by the Googlies

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John Henry Skillern is a registered sex offender, says local TV news.

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is said to have spotted an alleged child pornographer. The company supposedly discovered known kiddyporn images in a Gmail account, and alerted the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

Cue: Moral dilemma in 3... 2... 1...

In IT Blogwatch, bloggers wonder what else Google is searching for.

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment.

 

Tim Wetzel reports from Houston:

A cyber-tip generated by Google and sent to the [NCMEC] led to the arrest of a 41-year-old Houston man. ... Police say Google detected explicit images of a young girl in an email that John Henry Skillern was sending. ... Skillern is a registered sex offender.

"He seemed like a nice, normal man," said neighbor Yesenia Gonzales. "Thank goodness for Google."

Skillern has been charged with one count of possession of child pornography and one count of promotion of child pornography. ... Google wouldn't respond to our questions.  MORE

 

And Aunty's anonymous gnomes toil on:

The arrest raises questions over the privacy of personal email and Google's role in policing the web.

The BBC understands that Google does not search Gmail accounts for other forms of illegal activity, such as pirated content or hate speech [but it] helps fund the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), which is tasked with "proactively identifying child abuse images that Google can then remove from our search engine."  MORE

 

But Conor Dougherty makes bread while the sun shines: [You're fired -Ed.]

Federal law requires people and companies to report child exploitation when they see it. ... Google has repeatedly said that its users should not expect its free Gmail service to be private. They agree to as much when they sign up for the service. ... In legal documents, the company has compared web-based emails to a business letter that might be opened by the recipient’s assistant.

Google can detect child pornography with a widely used digital fingerprinting system...that allows companies and law enforcement to detect known child pornography in electronic services. ... Google said it has been using hashing since 2008.  MORE

 

So Kevin Parrish is conflicted:

This is a touchy subject. On one end, we have a potential child molester who clearly needs to serve more time behind bars. On the other end, we have a company that's scanning our emails. Which one is more in the wrong here? Skillern is of course.

But what if Google makes a mistake? What if a father sends a picture of his teenage daughter, taken at the beach, to grandmom showing that the family is having fun on a vacation? There's nothing wrong with the picture, but Google spies the images and sends the local authorities banging on Dad's door. ... Yay Google.

I applaud Google for cleaning up some trash, but I'm concerned about Gmail...privacy. If one email is scanned, then you can bet ALL emails are.  MORE

 

Don't worry, says Rich McCormick, adding that it's not just Google:

Other companies have access to similar photo tagging technology, including Microsoft, whose PhotoDNA software can also detect flagged images of abuse. PhotoDNA can calculate a mathematical hash for an image...that allows it to recognize photos automatically even if they have been altered. The tech is now used by both Twitter and Facebook, after Microsoft donated it to the NCMEC in 2009.

And British company Friend MTS donated its Expose F1 detection program to the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC) earlier this year.

[But] the automated image detection systems...have some flaws. For one, new pictures won't be caught:..only images already recorded in the user's database. ... They also raise some privacy questions.  MORE

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