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Google disables two accounts for wrongly assumed child sexual abuse photos: what this means

Two cases in the U.S. of Google disabling accounts and flagging potential child sexual abuse in personal devices prompts many questions

What’s the news: Two sets of parents in the United States had to pay a hefty price for their concerns towards their children’s health. On August 21, The New York Times (NYT) reported that Google disabled accounts of two fathers for taking naked photos of their toddlers for medical reasons. Although police investigations showed that both sets of parents were only interested in showing the photos to their respective doctors, the instances highlight how Google’s child abuse prevention technology isn’t an exact science. As per the report, Mark, father of the toddler in San Francisco, noticed his son’s swollen penis and shared photos of the same with his wife, who then sent it to the doctor for a diagnosis. Following the diagnosis, Mark’s son recovered but the father had his Google account disabled for “child sexual abuse and exploitation.” Mark ended up losing a lifetime worth of emails, contacts, early photos of his son’s life and the security codes required for access to other internet accounts. Similarly, Cassio, father of a toddler in Texas, photographed his child’s infected intimate parts and sent them to his wife at the doctor’s request. Like Mark, Cassio’s phone was also an Android phone that backed up photos to Google Photos. His account too was disabled, that too at a time when he was about to buy a house. Why it matters: In 2020, CyberTipline reported that India led in terms of generation of online child sexual abuse material (CSAM). Considering this, the idea of…

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I'm interested in the shaping and strengthening of rights in the digital space. I cover cybersecurity, platform regulation, gig worker economy. In my free time, I'm either binge-watching an anime or off on a hike.

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