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Google e-mail snooping leads to arrest of man on child porn charges

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Google, the mega corporation specializing in Internet-related services and products that got its start in 1998 as a lowly search engine, is being credited with providing a cyber-tip to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) that led to the arrest of a previously convicted child abuser from Houston who has now been charged with possession of child pornography. Authorities in Houston said that explicit child porn images of a young girl were detected by Google in John Henry Skillern’s e-mail, according to an August 4 report from CBS News.

Detective David Nettles with the Houston Metro Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce said that Skillern was doing the best he could to keep the child porn images on the downlow and undetected by trying to hide the images inside the e-mail he was sending to a friend. "I can't see that information, I can't see that photo, but Google can," Nettles said.

Skillern is already a lifelong member of the sex offender registry. In 1994, he was convicted of the aggravated sexual assault on an 8-year-old boy, for which he spent 20 years behind bars, according to KHOU.

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.

Skillern has been working as a cook at a Denny's restaurant. Police say they also obtained videos from his cell phone of “young children visiting the restaurant with their families.”

UPI quoted the chief legal officer for Google, David Drummond, as saying that Google has a history of working with the Internet Watch Foundation to seek out and identify child abuse images “so the company can then remove them from its search engine.” Drummond said that Google has the technology available to peruse for those images so that his company can then “quickly remove them and report their existence to the authorities.”

Skillern was arrested and charged with one count of possession of child pornography and one count of promotion of child pornography. The previously convicted child abuser is being held on a $200,000 bond. For more on the story, see the video accompanying this article.

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