Harmless vacation photo or criminal content? Swiss federal police need to make this decision thousands of times per year as US platforms send them images posted online and shared via private message.
In an effort to combat child pornography, providers like Facebook and Google automatically screen all photos for the presence of children and bare skin. The algorithm detects the content whether it’s posted online or shared via a messaging app like WhatsApp.
According to the SonntagsZeitungexternal link Sunday newspaper, the Swiss federal police (FedPol)external link received 9,000 pictures last year. Of these, about 10% were of a criminal nature. The rest were ordinary photos, such as families relaxing at the beach. Critics complain that the automated system lacks transparency and accountability, and is tantamount to mass surveillance.
As a FedPol spokesman told the SonntagsZeitung, the innocent photos – along with any personal data – are promptly deleted. The suspected pornographic ones are forwarded to local prosecutors. The investigators tasked with screening meet with a psychologist twice a year.