Google Reports Man to Authorities After Spotting Child Porn in Email

A tip from Google led to the arrest of a registered sex offender for possession of child pornography.

According to KHOU, Google reportedly detected explicit images of a child in an email John Henry Skillern, 41, of Houston was sending to a friend. The company reached out to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, who contacted police. Skillern is a convicted sex offender who sexually assaulted an 8-year-old boy in 1994.

"He was trying to get around getting caught, he was trying to keep it inside his email," said Detective David Nettles of the Houston Metro Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce. "I can't see that information, I can't see that photo, but Google can."

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After obtaining a search warrant, investigators said they found child porn on Skillern's phone and tablet device. They also found text messages and e-mails where he talked about his interest in children.

Google has yet to comment on the matter, but in a post called "Did Google Go Too Far?" Business Insider points out the company states in its terms of service it does analyze emails.

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Considering Google has been working to fight online child sexual abuse since 2006, it stands to reason the company would scan emails looking for those sorts of images. Google has never come right out and said so, but hinted strongly at it about a year ago when Jacquelline Fuller, director of Google Giving, specifically mentioned the National Center's "CyberTipline" in a blog post. The CyberTipline receives leads and tips regarding suspected crimes.

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Online service providers like Google are required under federal and many states' laws to report child pornography when they find it, attorney Chris Jay Hoofnagle, director of information privacy programs at the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology tells Business Insider.

However they are under no obligation to go out and look for it, Hoofnagle says. "But if you look and you see it, you have to report."

According to KHOU, Skillern was charged with possession of child pornography and promotion of child pornography and is being held on $200,000 bond.

Image via Shutterstock.