Google recently helped police in Houston, Texas catch a sex offender after tipping the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) that it had located explicit pictures of children in a man’s email. Although the search giant’s efforts helped catch a criminal, they’ve also made some people wonder if the company regularly monitors its subscribers’ email accounts.

A Gmail spokesperson recently spoke with AFP to shed some light on the subject and explained that online images that display child sexual abuse are marked with a “digital fingerprint” that the company is able to track. This sounds a lot like the tech that Google talked about last year when discussing its efforts against child exploitation. While several people are concerned about their privacy, the Google spokesperson advised that this software is only used to track child sexual abuse imagery and no additional email content related to criminal activity, such as burglary. In the US, federal law requires online service providers like Google to report child pornography whenever detected.

About the Author