There is a lot of noise being made by people who are complaining that Google is now invading people’s privacy, after reports of a man being arrested because Google tipped the Police off, when their software picked up that he was sending indecent images of children by email.
Of course some people assumed that Google was employing people to go through your emails, but that is not true. Tom Cheshire, a technology correspondent with Sky explains how Google found these images attached in an email.
Technically, Google isn’t looking at your photos in the way you might think. Google maintains a database of known child abuse imagery (flagged by child protection agencies worldwide).
Each image is given a digital fingerprint. This is a way of converting an image or audio file into a string of numbers.
As an image passes through a Google service, its digital fingerprint is matched up against this database of numbers. This means Google isn’t looking at the content of each photo you send per se.
It also means no humans are looking at images, which would be illegal. Nor does Google store child abuse images itself, which would also be illegal.
Is it an invasion of privacy? Well I think not. For the law abiding citizen they might think so, but unfortunately in the society we live in today the internet is used for some heinous crimes and one of those is being able to send child abuse pictures via email and messaging. Even terrorist plots have been orchestrated over the internet.
It is a tough balance to weigh… safety of children, avoidance of terrorist activities and other crimes, against privacy. And of course there are those that want to rack up the paranoia of conspiracy’s and big brother… but I am sorry how I look on this… if I send something online that is illegal (which I would never dream of doing) then I can’t blame the internet service providers or software hosts if I get arrested, hauled before the courts and banged up, can I? It was my doing in the first place.
And to be perfectly honest, if by software hosts doing this kind of things keeps me and children safe…. then it is OK by me.
Apart from people shouting about their privacy being breached there are people who are constantly harping on about how their freedom of expression is denied, simply because they are either taken to court or arrested… Some even complain when other internet users pick up on what they have posted online.
Of course when these people are told about what they have written they reply by saying how their human rights are being breached by quoting Article 10 (1) of the Human Rights Act which says:
Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.
Without quoting Article 10 (2) which is very important as it defines what conditions are attached to Freedom of Expression.
The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.
Freedom of speech does not give you freedom to libel and defame a person and criminals shouldn’t be allowed to hide behind Privacy laws.
The internet is a public arena…. each of us who are online play in that arena and there has to be rules and each of us must accept that, and understand that should those rules be broken, then that person has to face the consequences of their actions. And my motto is, ‘If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime’. And of course there is an alternative… if you don’t like it… log off the internet.