For law enforcement, combating the online distribution of child pornography is a major challenge. The anonymity of the Internet, the shear volume of sites to monitor and the difficulty of identifying individual images of child pornography provide too many opportunities for distributors of child porn to slip through the cracks.
According to Bill Harmon, Associate General Counsel for Microsoft's Digital Crimes Unit, the more than 65 million images of child sexual exploitation viewed by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children show that images are growing more violent and victims younger, with 10 percent of the images reviewed being infants and toddlers.
In an effort to help law enforcement with their investigations, Microsoft is partnering with Swedish company NetClean to makes its PhotoDNA software available at no cost. The software, developed in collaboration with Dartmouth College, creates a unique signature for a digital image, called a "hash". That signature can be compared against signatures of other images to find a match, much in the way law enforcement currently uses fingerprints.
PhotoDNA can be run across an entire site to uncover those who are possessing or distributing pornographic images and bring them to justice. It is already being used on Facebook and by various online service providers where, according to Microsoft, it has helped identify thousands of images that would otherwise have gone undetected.
Learn more about this initiative and the technology behind it in this video.