Microsoft donates image-matching tools to fight child porn trafficking

Microsoft said it is joining the battle against child pornography by donating to law enforcement agencies advanced image-matching technology that helps track child pornography online and locate its traffickers.

The company said it would make Microsoft PhotoDNA software available at no cost to law enforcement agencies to support their child sex-abuse investigations.

The software, developed by Microsoft Research and Dartmouth College, creates a unique signature for a digital image, akin to a fingerprint, which can then be used to find other copies of the image online.


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Microsoft and Facebook already use PhotoDNA, which was originally developed to help find and report images of child pornography that cross through their online services.

Since then the firm has worked to make the tools more widely available to law enforcement, with the intention of speeding investigations and limiting the exposure of investigators to the corrosive effects of viewing images of abuse.

Bill Harmon, the associate general counsel of Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit, called child pornography a “massive problem,” noting that since 2002 the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has reviewed more than 65 million images and videos of child sexual exploitation reported by law enforcement.

“We simply cannot allow people to continue trading these horrifying images online when we have the technology to help do something about it,” he wrote in a blog post.

PhotoDNA will be available to law enforcement through a new version of NetClean Analyze, a tool already used by law enforcement worldwide, and the Child Exploitation Tracking System, a global law enforcement program for child-pornography investigations.

Law enforcement agencies capable of managing PhotoDNA source code integration themselves can license it directly.

About the Author

Paul McCloskey is editor-in-chief of GCN. Follow him on Twitter: @Paul_GCN.

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