The proliferation of child pornography and online sexual exploitation is an issue that has no socioeconomic or geographic boundaries. Unfortunately, the Internet has made it possible for predators to store and share illegal images without limitation. According to the Internet Watch Foundation’s (IWF) 2010 report, IWF took action against nearly 17,000 instances of child sexual abuse content on different webpages around the world in one year alone. The webpages were traced to 41 different countries, reinforcing the global nature of the problem and the need for international cooperation in response.
To help combat online child exploitation, the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit recently made its groundbreaking image-matching technology Microsoft PhotoDNA available to international law enforcement agencies at no cost. Created through a partnership with NetClean, PhotoDNA is the first hashing technique able to match images that are not digitally identical, making it possible to identify even subtly altered images across millions of files. This capability enables faster and more accurate data gathering, ultimately empowering law enforcement to find, report, and eliminate child pornography online and more quickly identify and rescue victims.
Now, for the first time, PhotoDNA will be integrated into a new version of the NetClean Analyze suite and provided to global law enforcement organizations at no charge. NetClean Analyze is also being enhanced to communicate directly with the Child Exploitation Tracking System (CETS), a collaborative global law enforcement program that assists in managing and linking worldwide cases related to child protection, so that law enforcement agencies using CETS can also take advantage of the image analysis power of NetClean. CETS is currently utilized by agencies in Australia, Brazil, Belgium, Canada, Italy, the UK, and the United States in the war against online child exploitation.
This type of global collaboration in protection of citizens – especially those that are unable to defend themselves – is critical to the safety, security, and health of our international community. In addition to the PhotoDNA offering, Microsoft and NetClean have been engaged in discussions with global policymakers, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and industry leaders about a new ‘Find, Report and Eliminate’ model for the disruption of child pornography online where technology service providers can play a positive role through cooperation with NGOs and the public sector.
For more information on PhotoDNA, and how it empowers law enforcement to rescue victims and prosecute child abusers, please read the Microsoft on the Issues blog post by Bill Harmon, Associate General Counsel for Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit.
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