Google seems to always be watching everyone but this time that turned out to be more of a good thing than a bad one. John Henry Skillern, a 41-year-old resident of Houston and registered sex offender was arrested on Thursday after Google spotted images of child abuse in his emails and tipped off the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Skillern is now being held on $200,000 bond and still has a sexual assault charge against him from 1994.
Police conducted an extensive search of Skillern's home and technology and they uncovered a wealth of emails and text messages concerning Skillern's pedophilia. Police found child pornography in the home and perhaps most disturbingly, they found cell phone videos of children visiting the local Denny's where Skillern worked.
Skillern is evidently a dangerous man and his arrest is undoubtedly a good thing but this incident does, of course, bring to light the ongoing controversy concerning privacy both online and off. Sex crimes against children is very clearly a cut-and-dry issue but many people wonder where exactly the line is drawn for less black-and-white cases. Google's history with the privacy of its users is shaky at best but unlike government branches such as the CIA and the NSA, Google is a privately owned and operated company, they also just so happen to be one of the largest companies in the world. Google theoretically has much more right than government agency to watch its users, even though Google isn't always clear about its privacy guidelines.
So where does this leave the average user? Does one give up certain privacies for the greater good, or is what someone does online entirely their own business, even if it’s illegal? Only time will tell, but hopefully if Google is watching they'll continue to help put men like Skillern away.