Microsoft gives cops tools to detect child porn

The software giant, along with a Swedish technology company, is providing photo-identification technology free of charge to law enforcement to help detect and thwart child abuse.

Microsoft is giving law enforcement PhotoDNA, a digital tool that sifts through massive amounts of online images to help identify instances of child pornography and rescue victims.

The software giant announced this morning that it, along with NetClean, a Swedish maker of technology to combat the spread of child porn, will give away the image-matching software to help law enforcement agencies detect new images of child abuse online. That then helps those agencies focus their efforts on tracking down abusers.

Microsoft's Bill Harmon Microsoft

"By arming law enforcement with this powerful technology, our goal is to help expedite investigations, limit officer exposure to the corrosive effects of viewing child rape images, and strengthen law enforcement's ability to quickly identify and rescue victims and get child abusers off the street," Bill Harmon, associate general counsel in Microsoft's Digital Crimes Unit wrote in a blog post.

Child pornography is one of those rare crimes where perpetrators often post evidence of their illegal acts online. But the vast quantity of images circulating on the Web makes finding specific photos of child abuse a huge challenge.

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has reviewed more than 65 million images and videos of child sexual exploitation reported by law enforcement since 2002. The group says 10 percent of those images now are of infants and toddlers.

Last May, Microsoft shared its PhotoDNA technology with Facebook to help it prevent child porn from circulating through the social network .

Microsoft developed PhotoDNA with Dartmouth College in 2009. The technology creates something of a digital fingerprint, a unique identifier for digital images. PhotoDNA cannot identify individuals in photos. But by creating that unique mathematical representation of a photo itself, law enforcement can then match one photo to another.

That, in turn, helps investigators determine if a specific photo is new, as opposed to being an older shot that's being recirculated. Understanding which photos are new helps law enforcement focus their efforts and zero in on child abuse perpetrators. The tool also helps law enforcement detect images that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.

Here's a video that Microsoft released detailing the problem (Silverlight required) and the partnership:

 

Join the discussion

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Show Comments Hide Comments