The online giant, Google, has recently helped the FBI bust a suspected pedophile. A 40-year-old California resident, Raul Gonzales, was busted in possession with over 3,000 incriminating photos. The suspect was arrested on November 6 after Google contacted authorities by alerting The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in March of this year.
Google first discovered these child pornographic images when their “hashing” technology was used in detecting that Gonzales uploaded illegal images to Google’s photo sharing service, Picasa. Later, Gonzales was also found to have similar inappropriate photos on his cell phone as well as on the popular blogging site, Tumblr.
An earlier report by CBS Sacramento stated that the FBI was able to find Gonzales in possession of photos of a 9-year-old child, which appeared to be of a close friend of the Gonzales family. Gonzales later admitted to sexually assaulting this child.
Google has recently been tuning their search engine to prevent links to over 100,000 possible sources of child abuse material from appearing in any of their search results. Although Google has no control over anyone actually uploading inappropriate photos, they do plan on expanding their technology to more than 150 other languages to help clean up the web.
Google will show warnings at the top of search results, alerting users that child sexual abuse is illegal, and educating the user on where they can go to get help. This alert will show up at the top of the search results for more than 13,000 different specified queries which have earlier been deemed to display illegal behavior.
After Google runs this algorithm, their technology will flag a possible illegal photo. Then, a Google employee will check to see if the photo is in fact abuse, or if the photo is actually one of an innocent nature. Only a real human can tell the difference between the two types of photos, so parents with innocent pictures of their children at bath time will not have to worry about legal prosecution that stems from Google’s technology. Google engineers at YouTube also use this technology to help detect illegal videos.
Google has taken much criticism in the past about possibly invading one’s privacy, but Google has clarified that they do not search through personal libraries indiscriminately. However, their system will automatically search through the libraries for the “digital fingerprints” that may need to involve law enforcement or other watchdog groups. This Google algorithm will help authorities investigate and bust any suspected pedophiles or abusive persons.
Pictures are given a unique “digital fingerprint” to easily identify them wherever they appear in Google’s system. Microsoft has also helped to develop the picture detection technology by developing Photo DNA, a technology able to match pictures using just one single pixel. Using Microsoft’s technology, investigators are able to detect if a picture has been uploaded to the internet if it was one that was previously flagged as child porn.
Google has been very supportive to law enforcement and watchdog groups as they continue to help authorities bust suspected pedophiles. To further help with cleaning up the internet, Google plans to help fund internships for engineers at The Internet Watch Foundation in Britain and the US National Center for the Missing and Exploited Children.
By Brent Matsalla