Google’s practice of scanning users’ email content for serving targeted ads has aided in the arrest of an alleged 41-year-old Texas sex offender after the company reported of spotting child abuse images in the man’s Gmail account to police in the US.
According to the report from KHOU 11 News, it was after Google notified the non-profit National Center for Missing and Exploited Children about the individual in question, John Henry Skillern, a registered sex offender from Houston, that the local police went for an investigation and arrested him later.
Detective David Nettles of the Houston Metro Internet Crimes against Children Taskforce told Houston television station KHOU that the accused was trying to save himself from getting caught, and was trying to keep the alleged child abuse images inside his email. The detective said it was only Google who had access to the information and images.
The Police said that they obtained a warrant based on the company’s tip and during the investigation they found more suspicious images and text messages on the man’s other devices after which he was arrested on July 11 on a £120,000 ($200,000) bail bond.
Although application of Google’s email scanning practice is clearly positive particularly in this case, but it raises question on privacy issues around its Gmail service which has currently more than 450 global million users.
In April this year Google also updated its terms and conditions to acknowledge that its automated systems scan users’ email accounts to provide them with “personally relevant” adverts and nothing else.