Google has assisted law enforcement in the US to arrest a man by sending a tip to National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).
The information was obtained from the suspect’s email account, according to a report from Business Insider Australia. The man, already a registered sex offender, was previously convicted of sexually assaulting a child in 1994.
According to Business Insider Australia Channel 11 News in Houston, Texas reported:
“He was keeping it inside of his email. I can’t see that information, I can’t see that photo, but Google can,” Detective David Nettles of the Houston Metro Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce told Channel 11.
A search of the man’s other electronic devices uncovered additional suspicious images and text messages and he was later taken into custody, held on a $200,000 bond.
Most of us are probably happy for this technology being used to assist law enforcement in Australia to fight crimes but it does question the way Google handles confidential information. A lot of people rely on Google Now to remind us of birthdays, where we parked our car and lots of other personal information. Are we happy for all of our personal information to be scanned by Google?
Google has publicly battled child exploitation and last year in a blog post the company outlined how it identifies known abuse images.
Since 2008, we’ve used “hashing” technology to tag known child sexual abuse images, allowing us to identify duplicate images which may exist elsewhere. Each offending image in effect gets a unique ID that our computers can recognize without humans having to view them again. Recently, we’ve started working to incorporate encrypted “fingerprints” of child sexual abuse images into a cross-industry database. This will enable companies, law enforcement and charities to better collaborate on detecting and removing these images, and to take action against the criminals.
In this case access to information was used in a good way, but it does raise some privacy concerns about what Google are doing with all our personal information.