Child Porn Gets Man Arrested Over Gmail Scan

Child porn is never okay, but too many people still apparently take part in it. John Henry Skillern allegedly attempted to send explicit images of a young girl through Gmail, and Google apparently caught him in the act.

The Gmail scan ended up alerting police, who arrested him for his alleged violation.

You might be wondering why an email ended up getting him arrested when probably thousands of people engage in online piracy every day. Skillern was already a registered sex offender, and he is subject to legal monitoring.

Detective David Nettles says, “He was trying to get around getting caught, he was trying to keep it inside his email. I can’t see that information, I can’t see that photo, but Google can.”

Recent announcements in the Gmail Terms of Use have stated that the email service will occasionally scan emails for content considered illegal, including child porn. The service does this by breaking down the image into parts and cross-referencing them with content in the database. No matter what the resolution or file type is, if the image contains questionable content, the police can be alerted.

The only problem with this is that sometimes even the human eye can’t detect the difference between an innocent picture and child abuse.

This is very similar to various online piracy stings that the FBI sets up around the internet. They intentionally host illegal copies of popular movies and keep track of the ISP of whoever downloads them, firing off alerts which result in emails from the ISP, and possible fines after multiple violations.

John Henry Skillern, 41, was a cook at a local Denny’s in Houston, Texas and would occasionally take explicit photos of children with his mobile phone. He had also allegedly been sending text messages expressing his interest in children. This was all discovered after his arrest led to a further search of his cell phone and tablet device, where they found a collection of child porn.

This arrest is only the beginning of a crackdown by Google to cut down access to explicit images of children. Eventually, we can probably expect to find that even using questionable search terms can alert the email giant to suspicious activity and further investigation. Even though Gmail users have attempted to take action against the alleged invasion of privacy, it seems the ends justify the means.

Could we be reaching the point where even the mention of child porn could open an investigation? The arrest of John Henry Skillern shows that there is a definite positive side to Google’s new Gmail scan policies.

[image via Chris Matyszczyk/CNET]