It is like something straight out of ‘1984’: tech giant Google has reported a man to the police on detection of child pornography in his private email.
“If you are not paying for it, you are the product”, they say. Google is famous for its amazing digital services and prodcuts – Search, Drive, Maps, and of course, Gmail. In return for letting you use them for free, they use your personal data gathered from your usage to display targeted ads. Google has openly stated that its algorithms scan your emails for this purpose.
Personally, I am fine with algorithms scanning my email to display ads, but reading my email to look for suspicious activity to report to the police, or other intelligence agencies? Not quite.
Google detected John Henry Skillern of Houston sending pornographic images of children with a contemporary over email, and informed the police which has led to his arrest. He has been charged for possessing as well as promotion of child porn.
I am genuinely happy to learn that the police has removed the man from society, and I thank Google for it.
However, the fact that some Google employees are reading everyone’s email (even if it is flagged for suspicious activity), and involving powerful authorities with it is a tad scary. It reminds me of the excellent ‘1984’ scifi book by George Orwell which depicts a dystopian future where a totalitarian government uses grand-scale, highly invasive surveillance techniques to control society. The fictional ‘Thought Police’ even arrests and punishes people for showing signs of thinking the wrong way.
Could technology corporations and intelligence agencies join hands to become a real-life version of the ‘Thought Police’?