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Google's Gmail tip leads to child porn arrest near Houston

Google's Gmail Tip Leads To Child Porn Arrest Near Houston

Police in Houston say Google's Gmail nabbed a child pornography suspect they couldn't have caught otherwise.



KHOU first reported the story last week with police saying 41-year-old John Skillern emailed three explicit pictures of a young girl to a friend. Google's software detected the pictures.

​Detective David Nettles, Houston Metro Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce: "He was trying to get around getting caught by just keeping it inside of his email. I would never be able to find that. I don't really know how they do their job, but I'm just glad they do it."​

Prosecutors charged Skillern with one count of possession of child porn and one count of promoting it. The news of advanced software tipping off police about a crime as disturbing as child pornography was quickly tempered by the news advanced software tipped off police, period.

Google's made no secret it scans Gmail users' accounts to provide targeted ads and even argued in court users should have no expectation of privacy. In response to a class action complaint against the company last year, Google's attorneys argued, "Just as a sender of a letter to a business colleague cannot be surprised that the recipient's assistant opens the letter, people who use web-based email today cannot be surprised if their communications are processed by the recipient's ECS provider in the course of delivery."

The company also partly funds the Internet Watch Foundation, which identifies child abuse images on the Web.

Still, as a writer for CNET put it, "There will always be the vexing question of whether Google should be the policeman at all."

The Telegraph pointed out this is the first confirmation Google searches out information from private accounts not on the public Internet.

"Although few would argue [whether] tracking down those who collect, store or transmit images of child abuse is important work, it will also raise privacy concerns for those who feel uneasy about Google searching through every image they send via GMail."

Of course, if you've been paying attention, they've been strongly hinting at it for some time now.

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CCCCC August 04 2014 at 3:32 PM

if you don't do illegal things, what do you have to worry about?

Flag Reply +10 rate up
9 replies
Diane August 04 2014 at 6:31 PM

So, does this mean that the USPS should be opening every piece of mail they receive to look for photos of underage girls/boys in explicit situations? Because it's pretty much the same thing. There is an unspoken assumption of privacy with email, but I guess there is no privacy.

Flag Reply +9 rate up
3 replies
patriot1too August 04 2014 at 4:58 PM

And these people want some right to marry?? We dont think so. Shame on GOOGLE and any big brother spy company. Glad he is not harming children but no we should never be allowed to be spyed on. Where does it end?? Stop it now.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
4 replies
Viper1ex19 August 04 2014 at 7:03 PM

"NOBODY" should have the right to read my email without a warrant [period]

Flag Reply +5 rate up
6 replies
patriot1too August 04 2014 at 5:00 PM

Stop big brother and their spying agenda now. It harms us all. Where does it end?? A bar code on your forehead??? No way. Glad he was caught but bad for us all that we are spyed on. Shame on Google.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
3 replies
Viper1ex19 August 04 2014 at 7:06 PM

Is Google the new law enforcement agency of the US?

If he was suspected of criminal activity, the law enforcement agency in his town should have gotten a warrant.

Its not up to Google to take the law into their own hands.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
3 replies
quincy_maxwell August 04 2014 at 3:32 PM

Glad they caught this guy, but it's just more proof that Google has sold out your privacy. Just like they all do, eventually.

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3 replies
Brenda August 04 2014 at 3:56 PM

I'm glad they caught the guy and arrested him on child porn charges. I hope they throw the book at him.

What bothers me is: "How private is our e-mail?" Big Brother is watching. Scary!

Flag Reply +4 rate up
4 replies
usapaydirt August 04 2014 at 4:34 PM

So if their software has the ability to detect the illegal photos, why doesn't it just erase them, the moment someone tries to load them, eventually no one would be able to send these banned images on the web, certainly not the same one twice....

Flag Reply +3 rate up
1 reply
dgosbee usapaydirt August 04 2014 at 6:51 PM

Why can't they eliminate SPAM the same way? Because there is no money in it.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
janell8587 August 04 2014 at 8:49 PM

When it comes to Child porn I am all for it. WTG Google!

Flag Reply +2 rate up
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