Gmail is autoscanned for child abuse images (Wired UK)


Google’s automatic email-scanning tech has been hard at work –
toil which has now resulted in the arrest of a man who had been
looking at sexually explicit images of children.

After discovering images, Google reported the Texan man who was
already a registered sex offender to the National Centre for
Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), reports. The Centre proceeded to inform the police who acquired
a warrant and upon searching the man’s other devices discovered
more incriminating images and messages.

In case you weren’t aware or had totally forgotten that Google
was scanning your emails for evidence, let’s just take a moment to
acquaint — or reacquaint — ourselves with the updated terms of
service Google announced earlier this year. In April Google added the following sentences to its privacy policy to make it
clear that all of your content — and that includes anything you
upload — is fair game for scanning:

“Our automated systems analyse your content (including emails)
to provide you personally relevant product features, such as
customised search results, tailored advertising, and spam and
malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent,
received, and when it is stored.”

Google chairman Eric Schmidt spoke out late last year to emphasise the effort that the
company was putting into preventing the spread of child abuse
images. In June 2013 Google also published a blog post reinforcing its
commitment to tackling child exploitation and saying it would take
any incriminating evidence to the NCMEC as well as the Internet
Watch Foundation. The company uses “hashing” technology to tag
known child sexual abuse images, which allows it to identify
duplicate images elsewhere. This means that each image gets its own
unique identification number so that humans don’t have to look at
them twice.

“We’re in the business of making information widely available,
but there’s certain ‘information’ that should never be created or
found. We can do a lot to ensure it’s not available online — and
that when people try to share this disgusting content they are
caught and prosecuted,” said Google’s Jacqueline Fuller.

While this implied that Google was making sure that people were
unable to come across sexually explicit images of children through
search, it never quite made it clear where its commitment to
preventing the spread of illegal images stopped. Needless to say,
Google always had the capability to extend this to its various
products, including Gmail and Google Drive, and now we know for
sure that it does.

It’s likely that this this latest revelation comes as a result
of an individual being careless and much illegal activity goes on
well beyond Google’s reach. Whether or not you agree with Google’s
attitude towards privacy, at least this sad story serves as a
warning to others who may be tempted to do the same.

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4 August 2014 | 4:42 pm – Source:

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