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Google+ Account Leads to Norman Coach's Child Porn Arrest

25-Sep-2015

Last summer, we wrote about privacy issues related to the use of Gmail and Google+, and how the tech giant, like photo developers, teachers, and others who suspect child abuse or sexual exploitation, is required to report the suspected abuse. In that article, we described how Google determines whether an image is "pornographic" and how the company claims to identify images of child pornography without violating the privacy rights of Gmail and Google+ users:

We do not want our personal emails to be read, but we do want child predators and child exploitation to be stopped. A Google spokesman told The New York Times how the company catches child pornography in Gmail without infringing on other privacy rights:

"Each child sexual abuse image is given a unique digital fingerprint, which enables our systems to identify those pictures, including in Gmail. It is important to remember that we only use this technology to identify child sexual abuse imagery, not other email content that could be associated with criminal activity (for example using email to plot a burglary)."

It leaves things a little unclear about how this "digital fingerprint" can distinguish between an innocent picture of a baby in a bathtub from a sexually explicit image of a child.

Still, the fact is that once Google identifies and image as child pornography, it has the responsibility of informing law enforcement, and it was just such a tip that led to the arrest of a Norman man on child pornography complaints.

Reports say that Norman police received several Cybertips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children linking flagged images to the IP address of Mark Lee Simpson. Following an investigation in which the suspect allegedly admitted to possessing images of child pornography, he was arrested and charged with two counts of possession of child pornography. He was booked into the Cleveland County Jail with bond set at $30,000.

In the course of their investigation, law enforcement agents determined that the man was a youth softball coach in Cleveland County. According to a letter to parents written by the sports and special events coordinator for the City of Norman, Oklahoma, police have determined that no local children are involved in the alleged images. The letter states that the suspect passed a background check prior to coaching for the team, and it explains the City's policy regarding convicted sex offenders and those with pending cases related to sex crimes: 

"The Parks and Recreation Department conducts background checks on all head coaches. The list of disqualifiers includes, “Any Sex Offense – Regardless of the amount of time since offense,” and it is recommended that anyone who has been charged with any of the disqualifying offenses or for cases pending in court should not be permitted to volunteer until the official adjudication of the case."

If the man is subsequently convicted, says the letter, he will be permanently disqualified from coaching in Cleveland County. Of course, a person is convicted, the point will be moot, as state law and sex offender registration requirements would prevent him from "loitering" in parks and working with children for 25 years as a registered sex offender.  



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