Google Image Scanning Software Revealed in Child Pornography Arrest

(illustration: Jesus Diaz/Gizmodo)

By Stephanie Mlot, PC Magazine

04 August 14

  41-year-old Houston man was arrested last week after a Google email scan uncovered child pornography.

John Henry Skillern (pictured) was sending explicit images of a young girl when the search giant intercepted them and handed them over to local police, according to Houston station KHOU 11 News.

After obtaining a search warrant, police found more child porn stored on Skillern’s mobile phone and tablet, as well as text messages and emails discussing his interest in children, KHOU 11 News said. He has been charged with one count of possession of child pornography and one count of promotion of child pornography; he is being held on a $200,000 bond.

Skillern is a registered sex offender who worked as a cook at a local Denny’s. According to KHOU 11 News, he would take photos of children at the restaurant using his cell phone.

Google did not immediately respond to PCMag’s request for comment. But the news comes about a year after Google announced that it would spearhead a new, shareable database intended to make it easier for organizations to report and remove images of child sexual abuse from larger portions of the Web.

According to Google, the company’s database identifies images by a process known as hashing – a method that breaks a picture down into specific components that can be identified regardless of the image’s file type or resolution. In other words, the process helps to create a unique fingerprint that allows Google to identify similar images based on what they actually look like.

In November 2013, meanwhile, Google pledged to further crack down on access to child porn via its search engine. “In the last three months [we] put more than 200 people to work developing new, state-of-the-art technology to tackle the problem,” Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt wrote in an op-ed at the time.

For more, watch PCMag Live in the video below, which discusses Google’s email scanning practices.
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