Science & technology
Google defends child porn tip-offs to police
Publish Date: Aug 06, 2014
Google defends child porn tip-offs to police
  • mail
  • img
newvision

WASHINGTON - Google defended Monday its policy of electronically monitoring its users' content for child sexual abuse after it tipped off police in Texas to a child pornography suspect.

Houston restaurant worker John Henry Skillern, 41, was arrested Thursday following a cyber-tip that Google had passed along via the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), based outside Washington.

"He was trying to get around getting caught, he was trying to keep it inside his email," said detective David Nettles of the Houston Metro Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce.

"I can't see that information, I can't see that photo -- but Google can," he told Houston television station KHOU, which first reported the story.

It's common knowledge that the world's leading Internet service, like its rivals, tracks users' online behavior in order to fine-tune its advertising services.

But the Texas case prompted concerns about the degree to which Google might be giving information about its users' conduct to law enforcement agencies.

"The story seems like a simple one with a happy outcome -- a bad man did a crime and got caught," blogged John Hawes, chief of operations at Virus Bulletin, a cyber security consultancy.

"However, there will of course be some who see it as yet another sign of how the twin Big Brothers of state agencies and corporate behemoths have nothing better to do than delve into the private lives of all and sundry, looking for dirt," he said.

In an email to AFP, a Google spokesperson said Monday: "Sadly, all Internet companies have to deal with child sexual abuse.

"It's why Google actively removes illegal imagery from our services -- including search and Gmail -- and immediately reports abuse to the NCMEC."

The NCMEC operates the CyberTipline, through which Internet service providers can relay information about suspect online child sexual abuse on to police departments.

"Each child sexual abuse image is given a unique digital fingerprint which enables our systems to identify those pictures, including in Gmail," added the spokesperson, who did not disclose technical details about the process.

"It is important to remember that we only use this technology to identify child sexual abuse imagery -- not other email content that could be associated with criminal activity (for example using email to plot a burglary)."

In a separate email to AFP, the NCMEC said federal law requires Internet service providers to report suspected child porn to the CyberTipline.

"NCMEC makes all CyberTipline reports available to appropriate law-enforcement agencies for review and possible investigation," it said.

On its website Monday, KHOU described Skillern as a registered sex offender, convicted 20 years ago of sexually assaulting an eight-year-old boy.

Investigators who raided his home allegedly found child porn on his phone and tablet device, as well as cellphone videos of children visiting the Denny's family restaurant where he worked as a cook.

Skillern has been charged with one count of possession of child pornography and one count of promotion of child pornography. He remains in custody on a $200,000 bond, KHOU said.

Google's online set of "program policies" for its Gmail service, with more than 400 million users worldwide, includes "a zero-tolerance policy against child sexual abuse imagery."

"If we become aware of such content, we will report it to the appropriate authorities and may take disciplinary action, including termination, against the Google accounts of those involved," it states.

Last year, Google's chief legal officer David Drummond, writing in Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper, acknowledged Google had created technology to "trawl" for known images of child sex abuse."

"We can then quickly remove them and report their existence to the authorities," he said.

The statements, comments, or opinions expressed through the use of New Vision Online are those of their respective authors, who are solely responsible for them, and do not necessarily represent the views held by the staff and management of New Vision Online.

New Vision Online reserves the right to moderate, publish or delete a post without warning or consultation with the author.Find out why we moderate comments. For any questions please contact digital@newvision.co.ug

  • mail
  • img
blog comments powered by Disqus
Also In This Section
European lawmakers back Google break-up
The European Parliament voted overwhelmingly for the break-up of Google on Thursday in a largely symbolic vote that nevertheless cast another blow in the four-year standoff between Brussels and the US Internet giant....
DNA may survive trip to suborbital space and back
DNA molecules attached to the outside of a rocket may be able survive a trip to suborbital space and back into the Earth's atmosphere at extremely high temperatures, according to a new study....
E-cigarettes have 10 times carcinogens: Japan researchers
E-cigarettes contain up to 10 times the amount of cancer-causing agents as regular tobacco, Japanese scientists said Thursday, the latest blow to an invention once heralded as less harmful than smoking....
Twitter takes note of other apps on smartphones
Twitter on Wednesday said it would begin tracking which other applications people have installed on their mobile devices in a bid to better target ads and content....
BlackBerry courts iPhone users with cash
Canadian smartphone maker BlackBerry is wooing Apple customers with a cash offer for trade-ins of iPhones for its new square-screened, keyboard-equipped Passport....
Spotify turns up volume as losses fall
The world's biggest music streaming service, Spotify, announced Tuesday its revenue grew by 74 percent in 2013 while net losses shrank by one third, in a year of spectacular expansion....
Should Govt lease parts of Lake Victoria to private developers?
Its Ok
No Way
Not Sure
follow us
subscribe to our news letter