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Google Crime Privacy

Google Spots Explicit Images of a Child In Man's Email, Tips Off Police 790

Posted by samzenpus
from the do-not-pass-go dept.
mrspoonsi writes with this story about a tip sent to police by Google after scanning a users email. A Houston man has been arrested after Google sent a tip to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children saying the man had explicit images of a child in his email, according to Houston police. The man was a registered sex offender, convicted of sexually assaulting a child in 1994, reports Tim Wetzel at KHOU Channel 11 News in Houston. "He was keeping it inside of his email. I can't see that information, I can't see that photo, but Google can," Detective David Nettles of the Houston Metro Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce told Channel 11. After Google reportedly tipped off the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the Center alerted police, which used the information to get a warrant.
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Google Spots Explicit Images of a Child In Man's Email, Tips Off Police

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  • by the_Bionic_lemming (446569) on Sunday August 03, 2014 @11:07PM (#47596577)

    The great things google can offer, 1984 saves the children!

    (Yes it's good that pedophiles get hurt - But there is a very very bad precedent here...)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 03, 2014 @11:13PM (#47596605)

    I'm not sure how this sets any sort of new precedence, often times these people are caught because they grant other people access to their computer. And that computer happens to have childporn on it.

    The bigger issue is how much effort Google is placing into search people's accounts for child porn and what assurances there are that the images being possessed are actually known about by the alleged offender.

  • Agreed. Even good outcomes do not justify bad behaviour. We should not be happy that Google is perusing the content of our E-mail with anything but automated tools (for advertising, etc.)

  • by Masked Coward (3773883) on Sunday August 03, 2014 @11:16PM (#47596623)
    My thoughts exactly. It goes without saying that I feel no sympathy for a child molester. BUT....... oh the abuse this could lead to. Remember, some people classify "potential terrorist" as those who cite the Constitution in online article comments.
  • This is chilling (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MasseKid (1294554) on Sunday August 03, 2014 @11:16PM (#47596625)
    This is chilling, not for pedophiles, fuck them, but for the average citizen. While, I absolutely believe it's google's job to report illegal activity they accidentally uncover to the police, this appears google is actively searching your e-mails for things to forward to the police, and that's a chilling thought for free speech, freedom, and prevention of abuse of power.
  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Sunday August 03, 2014 @11:17PM (#47596629)

    but if Google messed up the chain of evidence then he may get off.

    child porn is bad and this guy seems to be guilty but some needs to stand up for the rights and prove that the IP they have is going to right place.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 03, 2014 @11:19PM (#47596645)

    Agreed. Even good outcomes do not justify bad behaviour. We should not be happy that Google is perusing the content of our E-mail with anything

    FYP

  • by MikeBabcock (65886) <mtb-slashdot@mikebabcock.ca> on Sunday August 03, 2014 @11:24PM (#47596671) Homepage Journal

    People seem to miss the opportunity for incredibly bad behaviour. What about if a company like Google starts reporting on who you want to vote for? There are a lot of reasons the post office doesn't open the mail -- and our electronic equivalents should respect that same privacy.

  • by scottbomb (1290580) on Sunday August 03, 2014 @11:31PM (#47596713) Journal

    Which is why I don't use gmail and I find it rather alarming just how many people are/have switched to gmail. This is not to say Hotmail and Yahoo are any better at minding our privacy but I don't use them anymore either - for the same reason.

  • by wisnoskij (1206448) on Sunday August 03, 2014 @11:31PM (#47596717) Homepage
    Lay your own cable to all your friends houses, then run your own encrypted email server.
    Then learn to accept that the NSA installed a hardware backdoor in your router and is reading your emails (and now they are monitoring your for suspected terrorist activities), and China installed one in your computer hardware and are doing the same.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 03, 2014 @11:32PM (#47596721)

    "There are a lot of reasons the post office doesn't open the mail -- and our electronic equivalents should respect that same privacy."

    For the postal analogy, an email is a postcard.

    Encryption is an envelope.

  • by imag0 (605684) on Sunday August 03, 2014 @11:36PM (#47596737) Homepage

    Gmail allows for dot address matching. This is a *huge* problem that has never been addressed.

    Apparently my first letter, last name gmail address happens to be pretty popular. So popular, I receive emails from at least 5 other people in my inbox. One from PA, another one in Florida, still another in New Zealand... I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Apparently, this seems to happen a bit to people [google.com].

    Sadly, Google has no fix for it, no way to get it to stop. Their support address and site are useless, imho.

    I have since moved all of my email off to my own domain and mail services not controlled by Google. I still keep the account open and forwarding to my new email address, so I still get their email, too. I do what I can to minimize problems by auto-deleting everything that hits my inbox that's obviously not for me.

    Stories like this scare the shit out of me because, at any time, if one of those people I happen to receive email for suddenly decides to go into full-creep mode, I could be put in prison for a very, very long time. Not for anything that I have done, but for how gmail has been setup to allow for this.

  • by gweihir (88907) on Sunday August 03, 2014 @11:42PM (#47596761)

    There is no "accidental" here. They either are systematically scanning all email or they had (again) some system administrator looking at private email without authorization. That is extremely troubling. That they found somebody possessing illegal digital goods is besides the point. A police state is characterized by universal surveillance and the eradication of all privacy. Sure, in a police state, more people doing illegal things are caught initially (but only then), but that is in no way desirable at this huge price.

  • Lets try this.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wbr1 (2538558) on Sunday August 03, 2014 @11:44PM (#47596771)
    I have no idea if this guy did this or not (innocent until proven right?) It looks like he did, but consider the following . Registered sex offenders in most states have to register their email address. Sometimes even so much as providing the password.

    With legal (or cracked) access to anyone's email account (sex offender or not) lets see how easy it is to plant evidence.

    1. Access account, add a folder or label (preferably hidden buy being buried in default sort order or under another folder).
    2. Set filter with obscure rule to automatically route certain emails to said folder.
    3. Send "illicit" or "evidentiary" messages that match said filter. These can be sent from self or whatever generated entity seems appropriate.
    4. Access account again from various public IP addresses (or from target's own wifi). Read already read email, plus messages in target folder.
    5. Remove filter. Have Google 'find' the evidence. Arrest wrongdoer.

    This is not that far fetched. The chain of evidence doe not prove that the target is guilty, but can be made to look enough like it to convince a judge or jury. From the vantage of Google or a jury, it looks as though the subject sent or had sent, expected, and read the messages.
    Just about anyone here could do this with the creds to an account - which in most situations are not terribly hard to garner.
    Before you say you would notice the folder in your account, think of this. I have over 100 folders in my email account, some rarely opened, and never all visible on the screen. I wouldn't have noticed - but I may have enough knowledge to fight - a little anyway. How about a novice, when a folder named 'Archived Messages' appears. Would he/she even think twice?

    I did not RTFA, but I know google uses their image search algos for blocking known child porn sites. It is not a hard step to run that against email messages. How about when the NSA/CIA/FBI tells google (via a NSL) scan all messages for x terms. How about when said terms are sent to and from hacked accounts as a matter of course?

    It is important to realize that absolutely no communication that is unencrypted is private, but how about whe forged open communications can make you a criminal?

  • by supersat (639745) on Sunday August 03, 2014 @11:45PM (#47596783)
    Tips received from private companies or individuals are not subject to the same constitutional limits on evidence, provided they are not being paid by law enforcement. This is why CrimeStoppers exists.
  • Re:Good riddance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LordLucless (582312) on Sunday August 03, 2014 @11:46PM (#47596787)

    Yeah, I have absolutely no problem with this article. You don't want RandomCompany looking at your emails? Don't send your emails through RandomCompany servers.

    Don't want your ISP looking at your emails? Encrypt your emails.

    Don't have the ability to understand how to encrypt your emails and want someone to manage it for you because technology is all so hard but you still want to use it? Suck it up and learn, or pay someone to do it for you and stop whining about your own ignorance.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 03, 2014 @11:47PM (#47596793)

    And thats the catch no one seems to be talking about. An influenced chain of evidence can break entire cases simply because the police cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the evidence was not tampered with/planted.

    Someone at Google blew the whistle? If 'someone at Google' was able to look inside, how do we know they didn't put it inside in the first place? If you rent an apartment and your landlord has the master key, the police are going to have a VERY hard time convincing the court that you are the guilty party when the only reason they investigated you in the first place was because your landlord tipped off the police.

  • Re:Good riddance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mitreya (579078) <mitreyaNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday August 03, 2014 @11:59PM (#47596847)

    They have an obligation to report child porn if they find it, but they don't have an obligation to look.

    Actually, naive me was thinking that they have an obligation NOT TO LOOK.
    I also have a storage room rental -- does that mean the owner is allowed to do random checks for stolen goods? Just in case?

  • by gweihir (88907) on Sunday August 03, 2014 @11:59PM (#47596851)

    The "success" here is completely insignificant in comparison to the huge costs to society. That you even feel the need to qualify your statement just shows that the artificial demonization of this material in order to justify a surveillance state has worked very well. It seems that by now people have completely forgotten that the actual problem is children getting hurt, not pictures of it or teenagers "sexting" each other. For all we know this person has a picture of a nude teenager, which does not even qualify as pornography in most countries. There is a reason this material does not get shown to the public. With the strong focus on digital material, the police gets easy "successes", and can justify any and all surveillance, but does not actually prevent any child from getting hurt. While it is difficult to get information (what a surprise), it seems that most acts of child abuse do not actually end up documented on the Internet and that commercial production is basically non-existent, as following money-trails is very, very easy.

    At the same time, the police-state and the fascism that universally follows it get more and more established.

  • by Pepebuho (167300) on Monday August 04, 2014 @12:01AM (#47596859) Homepage

    Guess what, even if you are not using gmail, chances ae people that you communicate with regularly ARE using e-mail, therefore, some of your email still passes through google's servers.

    Cheer up!

  • by AK Marc (707885) on Monday August 04, 2014 @12:02AM (#47596867)
    You don't have to prove evidence wasn't tampered with. You just need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the convicted child molester was in possession of child porn he was attempting to distribute. Most trust Google far enough to demonstrate a picture in an email. Why wouldn't you convict if a server admin presented a file, with logs, timestamps, and permissions that demonstrate the owner, creator, and time which that person had it?
  • by gweihir (88907) on Monday August 04, 2014 @12:03AM (#47596871)

    Aehm, what children were saved here? The article does not mention anything about it, just about some illegal pixels.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 04, 2014 @12:07AM (#47596901)

    Which is pretty nonsensical, and an end run around the constitution. If the police cover their tracks well enough, all they have to do is pay some people off to gather the evidence.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 04, 2014 @12:10AM (#47596917)

    - You sir didn't mention your favourite meal in your emails for a while. What's changed? Don't you like steak any more? Would you like to see some adverts for burgers instead?
    - Hey! You can't invade my privacy like that!
    - Wait a minute! What did you say? Privacy? Boys! This guy hates children and he's probably a paedo too!
    - No, no! Wait! That's not what I...
    - And he probably hates charity! See? That's why we need those snooping laws! To stop pervs like this one! Who's with me? Who's with me?!
    - This is madness! I know my rights and I...
    - We cut off this man's internet access so that he can't spread his filthy evil lies any more. Freedom triumphs again! America! This is a real proof that democracy works! Now, go write about this in the papers for those who are not up to date with the latest propaganda dissemination services.

  • Re:Others?? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gweihir (88907) on Monday August 04, 2014 @12:14AM (#47596929)

    They probably found a few thousand by automated scanning, and then selected one that actually had abused children 20 years in the past (and paid for it), because that will kill all reason in the general public. The aim, is rather obviously, to slowly break it to the public that all email content gets scanned. Of course it is in a good cause, like fighting illegal pixels and imaginary terrorists! (Can't do anything about people that actually hurt children, that would be far too expensive. And while the FBI has done its best to create "terrorists", they just cannot deliver enough...) Next, they will be going after people without priors, then anything "inappropriate" and finally, even badmouthing some politician in a private email will get you a visit from your friendly neighborhood SWAT team, after all you could be planning mass-murder.

  • by jeIIomizer (3670945) on Monday August 04, 2014 @12:15AM (#47596935)

    No child was saved, since the child porn was already made, and they're likely not going to do a damn thing to 'save' the child from their situation (if they're still in such a situation). They're just doing feel-good work by going after people who look at/possess images.

  • by jeIIomizer (3670945) on Monday August 04, 2014 @12:17AM (#47596949)

    Suddenly I could care less if Tor usage invites gov't scrutiny.

    Then you're anti-freedom and have no business living in any free country. The desire to sacrifice fundamental freedom and privacy for safety makes you no better than those who support the TSA, the NSA's mass surveillance, etc.

  • by Sarius64 (880298) on Monday August 04, 2014 @12:19AM (#47596971)
    What if someone at Google suddenly doesn't like you and they forward the contents of Mr. Convict to your e-mail address? Oh, and then the police get an "anonymous" call. Who believes you now, mate?
  • Re:Others?? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rmdingler (1955220) on Monday August 04, 2014 @12:20AM (#47596975)
    I had the same thought, and then i realized it said registered sex offender... plausibly, he placed himself in a higher risk/lower freedom category.

    Even though we are not ascribing values of good and bad to the Googliness, the argument for protection of the ffreedom of those most undeserving amongst us is often an easy moral conundrum to overcome.

    That is why they begin the gentle eroding of citizen freedom there, at the lowest common denominator. It's difficult to object, if in doing so, you find yourself defending reprehensible behavior. It is horribly obvious and routinely acceptable manipulation...

  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Monday August 04, 2014 @12:35AM (#47597045)

    I've found it funny when I've made arguments about Google's ad scanning being something I didn't like, and people always came back with "but it's 100% automated and completely anonymous - no human ever looks at your mail".

    I think that argument just got settled with this story - and I won.

    Now, having said all that as a justification for why I don't use gmail for my personal mail...

    Given that Google already regularly scans your email, I'm not going to complain about their actions in this case. For once something useful may have come from it. But given some of the explicit spam I've seen over the years, I'm not sure that I won't change my mind on this at some point over the next few days. There might be potential for some life-ruining mistakes here on the part of either Google or the police. I really need to know more about whether this email triggered a thorough and careful investigation that led to the arrest of the person, or if the email WAS the trigger for his arrest.

  • by Artifakt (700173) on Monday August 04, 2014 @12:47AM (#47597085)

    I see a bigger problem with Google acting as unpaid law enforcement. It puts their own employees at risk. Criminals, particularly the sort we are now calling terrorists, will not see any sharp line between a company that acts to aid law enforcement, especially without even needing a subpoena, and the government itself, and the one big distinction they will see is that the company does not have heavily trained, firearms wielding personnel in large numbers.
              It's only a matter of time before somebody attacks one of these companies and issues a statement that it was a blow against the hated government. A smart company realizes that a court order gives them plausible deniability when they are accused of starting a criminal investigation or being over zealous in making accusations. They can say they were only doing what the law required, and the investigation was already ongoing, neither of which makes any sense as an excuse if they become extremely and seriously proactive. A smart company realizes that making their typical employees into soft targets is not fair to the employees.
              More simply, if you are an employee, and your company is asking you to do things that may leave a criminal wanting revenge against you, or a whole group of political nutcases targeting you, do you get the pay, equipment and training of an FBI agent or US Marshall? Does your workplace have the security of a federal office building? Does your health insurance have the same clauses a cops or soldiers does? Do you get paid to stay in shape on employer time in case your environment becomes a combat zone? Would the company use its legal department to protect you if the criminal sues you? Even if your management and you both really want to help catch the criminal, do they mean it enough they will back you up for your part, if that criminal is now carrying a grudge against you? Could you even expect your company to keep track of when a guy like this gets out of prison and warn you, or send a lawyer to his parole hearing?
          It's easy to cooperate with anything law enforcement asks, and harder to think rationally about the whole concept of blowback. It's easy to feel good about helping catch a particularly scummy criminal such as a pedophile, and harder to allocate the resources to properly protect your people from that potential blowback. And what happens at your company if you helped catch some guy everyone agrees deserves it, and now the government wants you to help catch all sorts of other criminals, who may be doing something you don't think should be a crime at all?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 04, 2014 @01:21AM (#47597207)

    The controversial Richard Stallman argument. We can watch videos of little kids getting shot up by American helicopters in Iraq. The act is illegal. It involves one person putting something inside another. It hurts the child, causes them PTSD and possibly death. Yet a video of a child getting shot is legal and child porn is illegal.

    It is kinda weird we treat sexuality differently; very interesting social construct.

    Also...congratulations. If you weren't on a watch list before, you probably are now.

  • What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by s.petry (762400) on Monday August 04, 2014 @01:26AM (#47597213)

    No, you don't have to prove innocence! The prosecution needs to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The fact that Google snooped brings up questions, so if this is the only evidence they have the guy will walk (assuming he goes to Jury trial and does not accept a plea).

    The intent to distribute you just make up out of thin air, stop with the hand waiving and stick to the case.

    Based on the arresting officers comments, they were tracking this guy because he was previously convicted. They were not able to catch him doing anything wrong, which should bring up even more questions about Google finding something when investigators could not. I don't believe it would have been difficult for a cop to get a warrant on the guy if there was actually suspicion.

    If this was a random Google employee that was accidentally mailed the photo I may feel differently. I have been working on Servers for over 25 years, and I have never gone though people's mailboxes or files. I have complied with warrants and provided copies of data, but never gone though someone's crap. With no warrant, I think Google did wrong. I'm not biased, I think any company that volunteers your data to law enforcement without a warrant is at least violating the trust of their customers.

    Before you "but but.. murder" how would you like to be arrested because you sent a still image from Saw2 to a friend (or any of the millions of murders depicted on tv or in movies, and a measurable percentage of those are children being murdered)? I personally am not into movies so don't worry too much about that one, but I know people that are.

    Anyone that trusts a Government known for parallel construction (framing people) or Google (a company known to be handing 3 letter agencies private data) should have their head examined. On this site, I should not have to mention how easy it is to forge file ownership, date stamps on files, email, chat, and logs for the latter two. In case you are not a techie, it's pretty damn easy.

  • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Monday August 04, 2014 @01:39AM (#47597255)

    Yet a video of a child getting shot is legal and child porn is illegal.

    That is a stupid analogy. The kid getting shot was not shot because of the video. But a child filmed while being sexually abused, was abused because of the demand for the video. So it is not the same thing at all.

    Our current child porn laws are too draconian. They outlaw animations, and adult actors posing as children, and there is no conclusive evidence that viewing child porn makes anyone more likely to molest. But I think you will have a hard time convincing most reasonable people that pornographic films of actual children should be legal. A child cannot give consent.

  • by arth1 (260657) on Monday August 04, 2014 @01:42AM (#47597263) Homepage Journal

    Remember, some people classify "potential terrorist" as those who cite the Constitution in online article comments.

    Everyone is a potential terrorist.
    Chief Justice John G. Roberts, CIA director John Brennan, actress Julia Roberts, you and I are all potential terrorists. And potential child molesters too.

    It goes without saying that I feel no sympathy for a child molester.

    It shouldn't go without saying. That's groupthink.

    What distinguishes a mensch from a barbarian is the ability to have sympathy for even those you despise the most. If someone is a child molester, I would think it highly likely that they suffer from a mental illness, and need our help. I don't think there are many who decided to become a child molester.

    The more heinous the crime, the more important it is that we do not let base feelings take control. If we do, we are no better than the child molesters who let their base feelings take control of what they do.

  • by arth1 (260657) on Monday August 04, 2014 @01:59AM (#47597323) Homepage Journal

    And? I am sure there are people out there who would send child porn to registered sex offenders in order to frame them.

    When corporations have abilities beyond what the government has, and act on behalf of the law, in a way that could not be foreseen by the lawmakers of the past, I think the only way to honor the intent of the constitution would be to apply the 4th amendment protections there too. Whether a search and seizure is committed by an algorithm or a person is irrelevant - if there was not enough suspicion to justify a search warrant, the evidence should be admissible. No matter how guilty the person is.
    Remember: We are all guilty of something. Today they may go after possible child porn recipients, tomorrow they may go after speeders and use tax evaders, and one day after those who may oppose status quo. The opportunities for abuse are endless.
    Give the devil a finger, and he takes the whole hand.

  • by GrBear (63712) on Monday August 04, 2014 @02:18AM (#47597387)

    Does it really matter the how or why? It's obvious it's gone far beyond simply scanning emails to target advertisements. Today CP, tomorrow thought police.

  • by arth1 (260657) on Monday August 04, 2014 @02:56AM (#47597517) Homepage Journal

    True. But for saying that openly, you will be branded as a supporter of child molesters.

    Brand away. I do support child molestors. And murderers. And swindlers. And racists. And slavers. I do not support child molestation, murder, swindle, racism, or slavery. But that is no reason not to care about the people, and wishing that they can be rehabilitated and become productive and respected members of society for the rest of their lives.
    If there is evil in a person, it's a mental illness that needs a cure, not a carte blanche to do evil to the person in return.
    The Abrahamic religious nonsense about "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" needs to stop, or we'll never progress into a peaceful society.

  • by arth1 (260657) on Monday August 04, 2014 @03:36AM (#47597653) Homepage Journal

    Yes it's good that pedophiles get hurt

    Why, exactly, is it good that pedophiles get hurt?

    Pedophilia is a perverse sexual orientation, like zoophilia, coprophilia and many others, but does not imply that the afflicted has or will abuse children. There's a greater risk, but we do not wish to punish people for being a greater risk, do we? If so, it would be good if we hurt all male relatives, who by far pose the greatest risk for a child being molested.

    If we want to stop child molestations, I think what we need to do is look at why some people do the heinous deeds, and figure out how to stop people from flipping over.
    Somehow I get the feeling that many would be sad if that happened, because then they wouldn't have anyone to string up and exact revenge on.
    But in my opinion, one child molested is one too many, and no matter how much you flog pedophiles, it won't reduce the problem.

  • by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdotNO@SPAMworf.net> on Monday August 04, 2014 @03:42AM (#47597671)

    Guess what, even if you are not using gmail, chances ae people that you communicate with regularly ARE using e-mail, therefore, some of your email still passes through google's servers.

    Benjamin Mako Hill did an analysis of his inbox. He found Google has about HALF of this personal email - and he runs his own mail server and everything. See http://www.slate.com/blogs/fut... [slate.com]

    Anyhow, the interesting thing is that Google has a bunch of file hashes, and they actually matched the image. I mean considering how easy it is to change the file hash, they seemed to just collect and send the same image over and over again?

    You'd think by now they'd alter the images slightly to keep changing the file hash.

  • by bansai665 (225959) on Monday August 04, 2014 @03:58AM (#47597727)

    Philadelphia is wrong on many levels. Thus, good on Google. However, there is a lot to think about here. Namely, what if some spammer sends me photos of minors and Google sees it? Will I be reported? Or more realistically, what if someone that I have a poor relationship with sends me illegal images and Google sees it? Will I be held accountable for my that person's actions too?

  • by N1AK (864906) on Monday August 04, 2014 @04:03AM (#47597735) Homepage

    Except, in this case, the call was not anonymous. Furthermore, the police used the email as evidence to get a warrant to search his devices, and found other images. So, he is not being charged based on just one email.

    One of the issues with many in the anti-'think of the children' camp is that sometime what is going on seems reasonable in those circumstances. They should be willing to say "Yes I can see why people would be glad that this happened but..." and then point out that having private companies searching through your mail and reporting anything they like to law enforcement isn't a good precedent. Do they really want Google telling the government who owns guns, who visits anti-government websites, what they say on their hangouts about campaigning against the president etc? Sometimes the price we need to pay for keeping a healthy distance from totalitarianism is to not do certain things that might let us catch a few more bad people in the short term.

  • by Dutch Gun (899105) on Monday August 04, 2014 @04:10AM (#47597753)

    The threshold is "beyond a reasonable doubt", which means that we have to weight the possibility of a conspiracy to fake evidence by some random employee at Google and police who found evidence at his house, versus the probability that this person was guilty of a crime - one he was convicted of previously, incidentally

    If there's a Google employee or outside hacker with a wish to see this person go back to jail does not imply there has to be a conspiracy. That the person is formerly convicted would, I believe, make it more likely that the person is framed, not less. There are enough people who think anything less than life sentence is too mild, and some of those are more than willing to "do what it takes".

    Well, if the Google evidence was the sole evidence used to try to convict someone, I'd hope that the accused would walk free. One would hope that a case wouldn't depend on a single piece of ANY evidence, because that brings up the obvious reasonable doubt. If the Google evidence is used in conjunction with evidence also found at a local residence by law enforcement, that obviously makes for a much stronger case.

    I don't think it's unreasonable to apply Occam's razor to these scenarios. It's perhaps entertaining to imagine all sorts of crazy conspiracy theories that *might* occur, but the reality is that these sorts of things are undoubtedly *extremely unlikely* to actually occur. If we dismissed every case because of improbable scenarios that could theoretically punch holes in a case, we'd never convict anyone.

    We have to draw a line somewhere so that innocent people wrongly accused are protected, yet standards aren't so impossible that we can never actually convict anyone who has actually committed a crime.

  • by infolation (840436) on Monday August 04, 2014 @04:14AM (#47597759)
    if encrypted email is a letter and unencrypted email is a postcard, the storing pictures in email on google's servers is leaving your postcard collection with a warehouse that stores postcards for free.

    Would you be surprised when a warehouse reports you for storing illegal postcards there? Just because it's google doing the reporting doesn't automatically make it bad.
  • by thegarbz (1787294) on Monday August 04, 2014 @05:31AM (#47597975)

    How is this any different from you going to the police right now and saying you watched your neighbour murder someone?

    A tip off isn't singly admissible court evidence, it only spurs an investigation. Someone with access to information forwarded information to police, police investigated using all the correct legal channels and found hard incriminating evidence and busted the guy.

    This is exactly how a civilised society should work. You don't like it, don't send information unencrypted through the internet passing through the hands of others. Or do you honestly think I wouldn't report you if you handed me a photo of a child be raped and asked me to give it to someone else for you?

  • by Sqr(twg) (2126054) on Monday August 04, 2014 @06:04AM (#47598117)

    I've found it funny when I've made arguments about Google's ad scanning being something I didn't like, and people always came back with "but it's 100% automated and completely anonymous - no human ever looks at your mail".

    I think that argument just got settled with this story - and I won.

    No, you did not. This does not condradict Google's claim that no human ever looks at your email. The only thing that has changed is that in addition to being scanned for spam and viruses, attachements are now also being checked against a database of known child porn.

  • by ammorais (1585589) on Monday August 04, 2014 @06:22AM (#47598183)

    And then you go on to make the unfounded claim that a video magically made people rape children. I guess videos take control of people and cause them to rape.

    GP wan't making that claim. What I see is a claim that the demand has a direct relation with THOSE(in the movie/picture) children being abused.

    I find censorship disgusting.

    How about on a live theatre? Won't be censorship too to make it illegal?
    You're so intoxicated with your "no censorship" dogma that you failed to sense that people buying this movies/pictures are paying money to pedophiles to rape children.

    Mere videos or pictures shouldn't be outlawed, even if they do sometimes encourage more to be made (That's the rapist's fault; videos or people buying them doesn't force them to make more.).

    You're an idiot.

  • by Bogtha (906264) on Monday August 04, 2014 @07:07AM (#47598339)

    I've found it funny when I've made arguments about Google's ad scanning being something I didn't like, and people always came back with "but it's 100% automated and completely anonymous - no human ever looks at your mail".

    I think that argument just got settled with this story - and I won.

    No you didn't. If you had bothered to read the article, you would have seen that they detect things like this by using image hashing. It's an automatic process - unless you happen to be passing around images that are identical to known images of child pornography, at which point of course humans will get involved.

    I really need to know more about whether this email triggered a thorough and careful investigation that led to the arrest of the person, or if the email WAS the trigger for his arrest.

    Well, if you really need to know, then you could always read the article. It specifically states that he was arrested after police found other suspicious images on his computer (after obtaining a search warrant), and that he's a registered sex offender. Chances of this being a mistake are practically nil. All indications are that both Google and the police did their job properly, with judicial oversight.

  • by sshir (623215) on Monday August 04, 2014 @07:29AM (#47598411)

    How is this any different from you going to the police right now and saying you watched your neighbour murder someone?

    ...on a web cam you secretly installed in her bedroom?

  • It's an automatic process - unless you happen to be passing around images that are identical to known images of child pornography,

    Or which happens to be a valid image but has the same hash.

    It specifically states that he was arrested after police found other suspicious images on his computer (after obtaining a search warrant), and that he's a registered sex offender.

    So they got the warrant based on google reading his email? Guess all the cops need for a warrant is for some throwaway email address to send a pic to your account.

  • by sycodon (149926) on Monday August 04, 2014 @09:35AM (#47599031)

    Replace "Child Porn" with "Subversive Material" and suddenly it doesn't see like such a good thing, does it?

    Or, for you folks who like to "share", copyrighted movies, music, etc.

  • by SecurityGuy (217807) on Monday August 04, 2014 @09:58AM (#47599173)

    i don't think the spin being placed here as it being an 'invasion' of privacy is accurate here considering my prior statement
    you should thank google for helping to stop people invading the child's privacy by putting a stop to sharing of images like this

    Actually, I was thinking the perhaps we shouldn't jump the gun because maybe Google was troubleshooting something and discovered the image accidentally.

    The hash table of a lot of things could be a problem. I have a relative who sends me political memes. How hard is it to hash those and get a list of known Conservatives/Liberals/etc. McCarthy wasn't that long ago. Not too long ago being gay got you kicked out of the military. Drug laws are in flux. The list of things which are good or bad depending on either time or your own opinion goes on and on. The post office doesn't get to open your mail and compare the contents to a list of known bad things. Why does Google?

  • by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo@@@world3...net> on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @04:03AM (#47605291) Homepage

    Until relatively recently in human history it was normal for children to marry and have children soon after entering puberty. My own grandmother had 7 children by the time she was 21. You can do the maths.

    From a purely genetic point of view it makes sense for men to be attracted to the youngest fertile girls available, since they can give that man the greatest number of healthy children and look after them for the longest time before dying of old age. Remember that 30 used to be old age for most people.

    Of course this is not a particularly good thing for modern girls who will probably live into their 70s and 80s, and who can get a good education and be a productive member of society rather than just a baby factory. We quite rightly seek to help girls avoid pregnancy at an early age, and encourage them to wait until they are in a good position to raise children. The problem is that it runs counter to natural instinct, and we punish people extremely harshly for even suggesting that under-age people might be attractive. Clearly children do not suddenly become attractive the day they turn 16, it's a gradual process.

    In fact the law is completely schizophrenic. It accepts that a 16 year old can be desirable enough to have sex with legally, but criminalizes looking at naked 16 year old bodies or watching them have sex.

Murphy's Law, that brash proletarian restatement of Godel's Theorem. -- Thomas Pynchon, "Gravity's Rainbow"

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