On August 30th, 2022, a California father’s life was upended when an automated tool used by Google flagged his account and triggered a 10-month criminal investigation. The father had taken naked photos of his toddler for the doctor, but Google’s tool incorrectly flagged the photos as potentially illegal content.
The father, who has chosen to remain anonymous, was a software engineer and had been using Google Photos to store the photos of his toddler. When he attempted to upload the photos, Google’s automated tool flagged the images as potentially illegal content. This triggered an investigation by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), which is required by law to investigate any potential child exploitation.
The father was shocked to find out that he was being investigated and was worried that his career and reputation would be ruined. He was also concerned that he could be charged with a crime and potentially face jail time.
The investigation lasted 10 months and involved interviews with the father, his family, and the doctor who had requested the photos. Eventually, the NCMEC determined that the photos were not illegal and the investigation was closed.
The father was relieved that the investigation was over, but he was still shaken by the experience. He was also frustrated that Google’s automated tool had caused him so much trouble and stress.
The father’s story serves as a cautionary tale for parents who use Google Photos or other online services to store photos of their children. It is important to remember that automated tools can make mistakes and that it is important to be aware of the potential consequences of these mistakes.