Google has helped the US authorities arrest a convicted child abuser on suspicion of fresh child abuse offences, after it flagged up some internet content to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).
According to local news the man, 41-year-old John Henry Skillern, was arrested in Houston, after Google flagged up the content of an email that he was sending to a contact. He has since been charged with possession and promotion of child pornography.
The local police said that Google’s intervention provided information that otherwise may not have been uncovered.
“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 to local news service KHOU.com.
“I can’t see that information, I can’t see that photo, but Google can… I really don’t know how they do their job. But I’m just glad they do it.”
The case has posed some questions about exactly how much information of Gmail account uers the company monitors and can read.
Google would not comment on the case when V3 approached it about the charging of Skillern, but it does have its own software for spotting images of child abuse and a long standing relationship with the NCMEC.
The NCMEC is also a recipient of a Google Global Impact Challenge award and received $5m in funding from the firm.
In March Microsoft revealed that it would no longer search email accounts of users, and would leave the responsibility to the law enforcement agencies themselves.
Then the firm said that if content looked suspicious it would alert the authorities, and allow them to carry out their official investigations.