Google is monitoring your email

A criminal case in Texas is raising questions and controversy about your privacy online.

Police in Houston said Google notified authorities when its systems identified child porn in a Texas sex offender's account. They said the man, John Skillern, sent three sexual images of a girl to a friend via email.

Police arrested Skillern and charged him with possession and promotion of child porn.

Police say they would not have been able to find out about the pictures without Google.

But the case is raising some concerns that Google is seeing too much.

Google says in its terms of service that its "automated systems analyze your content including emails" as the content is "sent, received, and when it is stored."

The Problem Solvers checked in with Portland-based independent cyber-security advisor Patrick Miller to see what Google is looking at.

"Google is looking at everything in your email. There is really nothing off-limits," said Miller. "They can look at anything they want. They probably are."

Miller said you gave Google permission to look at your email when you signed up for Gmail.

"The reality is that, by and large, your email is no more private than a post card," said Miller. "It's pretty much open to anybody in the path that can read it."

He said communications between you and your doctor, for example, are viewable by Google.

"That's not private. It's private once the doctor has it in their ownership," said Miller. "But once your doctor sends you that information via email, that information essentially is in Google's hands and Google can do with that what they choose."

Miller said you can try to learn to use encryption techniques if you want privacy, or you may want to use a telephone.