News | United States: he takes photos of his son for a medical teleconsultation, Google denounces him for child crime

How far can artificial intelligence go? A US dad has had his Google account permanently deleted and reported to police for taking photos of his baby’s sex for medical purposes, reports The New York Times.

In February 2021, Mark, a stay-at-home dad living in San Francisco, California noticed that his newborn baby’s penis was swollen and hurting. He then decides to take pictures with his Android smartphone (Google’s mobile operating system, editor’s note) to monitor the progress. Later, Mark’s wife calls a nurse to make an appointment with a doctor but due to the Covid, it is determined that it will be a video teleconsultation. The nurse advises them to send photos to the doctor in advance so that he can study them. Except that two days after the photos were taken, Mark received an email from Google informing him that his account had been deleted due to “offensive content” consisting of a “severe violation of Google policy and may be illegal”.

In reality, Google services – like those of Apple – have a photo analysis system to recognize what is represented in the image. If the system detects illegal content, a second check is carried out by a human. But in Mark’s case, the person in charge of verifying the photo agreed with the algorithm’s judgment. And as American law obliges Google to report content that may be child crime to the cell of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children CyberTipline, the police have opened an investigation against the father of the family.

In the end, Mark was not bothered by the authorities and even received a letter last December indicating that the case was closed. On the other hand, all of his requests to reactivate his account with Google ended in refusal.

Always according to New York Times, Mark’s story would not be an isolated case since a resident of Texas would also have experienced the same misadventure. With there again a classification without follow-up by the police but a definitive deletion on the part of Google.

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