Gardaí accused of falsely flagging family photos as cases of ‘the worst type of crime’
“They include people who captured family moments of their kids on a beach, maybe swimming, maybe building sandcastles”
18th October 2022
Members of An Garda Síochána have been accused of flagging people sharing photos of innocent family moments as cases of child sexual abuse.
“Completely innocent people” are being caught up in the reporting of child abuse and having their information retained by Gardaí, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) said today.
The US-based National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCME) collects data on child sexual abuse material from internet providers and forwards this information to law enforcement across the world.
“Since 2010, An Garda Síochána have been receiving information from this body and since 2015 they’ve been getting it directly from this national centre in the US,” said Liam Herrick, the executive director of ICCL on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
“The guards then process that information and they filter out that which they believe is serious material which merits criminal prosecution and that which isn’t.”
Last year, 471 reports out of 4,192 were seen as “innocent” and “innocuous,” the ICCL said.
On Twitter, Olga Cronin, who works with the ICCL revealed how people get flagged on the system.
She said firms like Meta and Google “voluntarily scan emails/messages in an effort to detect” child sexual abuse material online.
“They include people who captured family moments of their kids on a beach, maybe swimming, maybe building sandcastles,” the ICCL Information Rights/Surveillance and Human Rights Policy Officer tweeted.
“People can be pulled into a net of surveillance and suspicion for the worst kind of crime even though they did nothing wrong. In the case of Ireland, people have been kept in that net.”
Mr Herrick told Morning Ireland that “obviously everybody wants to take the strongest possible measures to deal with child sexual abuse material” but ICCL are concerned about “false positives.”
“Does any further consequence flow from this? Is this information flagged on the Pulse system, is it accessed by other members of An Garda Síochána or other agencies?
“Is (sic) there potential negative consequences for some of these people? The answer to that question is we don’t know.”
A Garda spokesperson told sundayworld.com that “in cases where no criminal offence is identified following a review of material referred to An Garda Síochána for investigation, no crime incident records are created.
“This means there is no impact on any person referenced in that data – and no references to them as suspects or victims.”
They said data received by the NCME is “only accessible to a specialist unit.”