(Forbes) – A slightly disturbing piece of news: a child pornographer has been caught as a result of Google scanning his emails for known images of child abuse. We’ve all known (or at least we should all have known) that Google does scan our Gmail for that’s how the company serves us up ads to go with it (and I’ll admit to a certain delight at clicking on the ads of my competitors that sometimes turn up on business emails). But that this scanning is now linked into the law enforcement network is perhaps, from a public policy point of view, rather more worrying.

Technology giant Google has developed state of the art software which proactively scours hundreds of millions of email accounts for images of child abuse.

The breakthrough means paedophiles around the world will no longer be able to store and send vile images via email without the risk of their crimes becoming known to the authorities.

Details of the software emerged after a 41-year-old convicted sex offender was arrested in Texas for possession of child abuse images.

Police in the United States revealed that Google’s sophisticated search system had identified suspect material in an email sent by a man in Houston.

Child protection experts were automatically tipped off and were then able to alert the police, who swooped after requesting the user’s personal information from Google.

This worries me for several reasons, not least that we seem to be getting ever closer to Bentham’s Panopticon.


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