Google: Friend or Foe?

Is Google Justified in Reading Emails?

I asked that question because last week Google informed the Houston police that a man has a database of illegal and pornographic images of children. Now we can all agree that one child predator is off the streets. But are they a friend or foe in going further?

However, what makes us believe they stop there? Nothing. Most people understand that Google will use software to scan email and images in order for them to feed its advertising needs. But many people likely don’t know or were unaware, that the company is also scanning users’ accounts with the purpose of identifying illegal activity.

According to this article in the Washington Post:

While it’s hard to argue with the outcome of this particular case, the news did raise some alarm bells among researchers at the security firm Sophos, who questioned whether Google was stepping outside its place as a company and into the role of a pseudo law enforcement agency. Chester Wisniewski, a senior security researcher at Sophos, said that Google’s “proactive” decision to tip off law enforcement makes “some of us wonder if they’re crossing the line.”


Many security firms, including Sophos, occasionally find themselves in a situation where they come across child pornography among the files they scan for clients, and in those cases, those companies report those images to the police. But the difference is that Sophos and other companies don’t actively go looking for these images in their routine scans, as Google appears to have done with the software it uses on customers’ e-mails in the course of routine scanning for ad keywords and malicious software.


I think they have overstepped on this one. What do you think?

Friend or Foe?


The opinions in this blog belong to Tom Knuppel