cross-posted from:

In February of last year, Google’s algorithms wrongly flagged photos taken by two fathers in two different states as being images of child abuse. In both cases, the fathers—one in San Francisco, one in Houston—had small children with infections on their genitals, and had taken photos of the area at the request of medical professionals.

Google’s algorithms, and the employees who oversee them, had a different opinion about the photos. Without informing either parent, Google reported them to the government. That resulted in local police departments investigating the parents.

The company also chose to perform its own investigation. In the case of Mark, the San Francisco father, Google employees looked at not just the photo that had been flagged by their mistaken AI, but his entire collection of family and friend photos.

Both the Houston Police Department and the San Francisco Police Department quickly cleared the fathers of any wrongdoing. But Google refused to hear Mark’s appeal or reinstate his account, even after he brought the company documentation showing that the SFPD had determined there was “no crime committed.” Remarkably, even after the New York Times contacted Google and the error was clear, the company continues to refuse to restore any of Mark’s Google accounts, or help him get any data back.