For a long time, Microsoft has been one of the companies fighting online child abuse and helping law enforcement conduct these types of investigations. Today, the company announced a new step taken in this direction.
The Redmond-based software giant is partnering with NetClean to make the Microsoft PhotoDNA image matching technology available at no cost to law enforcement.
Thus, the company is providing a helping hand to investigations focused on child trafficking by enabling them identify and rescue victims easier and faster than before.
Since 2002, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) has had a look at over 65 million images and videos of child exploitation that law enforcement reported on.
What’s disturbing is that victims are younger still, and that these images are growing in violence. In fact, “10 percent of the images reviewed by NCMEC today being infants and toddlers who can’t tell anyone about their abuse,” Microsoft notes.
Today, the company has the technology needed to help in this direction. Microsoft’s PhotoDNA is offered to law enforcement free of charge, “to help in their battle to quickly identify and rescue these children,” Bill Harmon, associate general counsel, Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit, notes in a blog post.
PhotoDNA is being released as an image-matching technology that comes from Microsoft Research and Dartmouth College. It was meant to create a unique signature for a digital image, some sort of a fingerprint, which can then be compared to the signatures of other images to find copies of it.
NCMEC and other online service providers, including Microsoft and Facebook, are currently using the PhotoDNA technology to find, report and eliminate known images of child abuse online. Thousands of such images that previously have gone undetected can now be identified.
Initially used by online service providers, PhotoDNA appears to be of great interest to law enforcement globally. The technology was introduced in December 2009.
The PhotoDNA technology will be delivered to law enforcement at no charge via NetClean Analyze, which is already available in many countries, as well as through the Child Exploitation Tracking System (CETS), and via direct licensing (for all agencies with the necessary resources to manage PhotoDNA source code integration).