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Wednesday 6 December 2023 Dublin: 8°C
Google via shutterstock

Man arrested after Microsoft scanned his emails for child pornography

Companies such as Google and Microsoft have been performing scans to identify illegal images being sent online.

A TIP OFF by Microsoft has led to the arrest of a man in Pennsylvania for receiving and sharing child abuse images.

The man was found to have an image of a young girl saved to his OneDrive cloud storage account. He was also found to have attempted to send two illegal pictures via a Microsoft account.

This follows on a week after a tip off from Google led to an arrest on similar charges.

John Henry Skillern, a 41-year-old restaurant worker from Houston, Texas was arrested after being found sending indecent images of children to a friend. Google reported the images to National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). He was later arrested.

The find came about through Google’s practice of actively scanning content that passes through its Gmail system for child pornography. Despite what has been viewed by many as a positive outcome, the case raises questions about privacy.

A source from Google Ireland clarified that the technology is used in Ireland. While there is an obligation to deal with child sex abuse images, this does not extend to dealing with email content relating to general criminal activity.

The company uses ‘hash’ technology, which was developed by Microsoft. It allows for accurate digital identification of known child pornographic images to be found.

In the United States, electronic communications providers such as Google and Microsoft are legally required to report cases of child sexual abuse when they come to their attention. A legal grey area exists in whether or not they are supposed to actively carry out searches of peoples emails.

Speaking to AFP, a spokesperson for Google said: ”Sadly, all internet companies have to deal with child sexual abuse … It’s why Google actively removes illegal imagery from our services — including search and Gmail — and immediately reports abuse to the NCMEC.”

Additional reporting by AFP 

READ: 25,000 people join privacy lawsuit against Facebook

READ: Howlin wants to know what you think about public bodies sharing data

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