Microsoft develops image DNA technology for fighting child porn

Microsoft develops image DNA technology for fighting child porn

Summary: Images can now be broken down into DNA-like signatures to find copies, regardless of editing, to unearth child pornography online.

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Microsoft, through a combination of efforts from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), their own dedicated Microsoft Research section and Dartmouth College, Hanover, a new next-generation technology is being launched with the aim of tacking online child abuse imagery.

Using PhotoDNA, the system picks out images which are identical, even if they have been edited, resized, cropped and edited in other ways, and logs them. The system matches them through a technique which monochromes the image, breaks the image into smaller chunks and the intensity gradients are converted into a signature.

The signatures, even through editing, will remain the same and allow the system to find copies of the original image. Some similarities could compare QR codes to this, allowing similar cells to match other images, allowing the system to recognise similar gradients and therefore image copies across massive sets of data.

The ISPs are then given a list of these signatures, data strings essentially without giving away evidence, to search for other identical images which are out there on the web. The accuracy rating stands at 92% while false positives only delivers less than one in a billion images.

Microsoft is donating this technology to the NCMEC, which will then be licenced out to other law enforcement agencies across the globe.

This isn't new technology as such. Similar technologies have been developed to identify parts of images, such as skin tones, shadows, identifiable features within the image and lighting to determine whether other images took place from within that same area. This allows collections of images to be stored and categorised and used against the perpetrators in a court of law as mounted evidence.

While this could well be used in closed, internal networks of law enforcement to determine the same victim across multiple situations and abusers, this system could also be enabled to comb the Internet and ISP networks for similar content.

Softpedia reports that Bing and areas of Windows Live will incorporate the software to remove content based on the hash signatures based on the software database.

To make this fully effective, government policy needs to be introduced to mandate ISPs and content providers to employ these technologies, even though most US ISPs already work with NCMEC to create safer networks.

This technology seems to be in the second major development after CETS, the Child Exploitation Tracking System, which lets agencies share information using web based technologies to allow interoperability and collaboration across borders.

On a personal note, Microsoft seems to be donning the hat of morals with this technology. It's admirable to see the company working with law enforcement agencies to combat the ever growing threat of online child abuse, and this technology will surely make a massive difference.

Topics: Browser, Microsoft, Telcos

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44 comments
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  • it's useless

    because the code is not GPLed.
    Linux Geek
    • So?

      Begone with you dang Linux nerds already. Not everything needs to be GPL'd.
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • Seriously? It's useless??

      Explain why it's USELESS unless it's GPL'd?
      Fark
    • Hey guess what?

      We use plenty of non-GPL'd code here and it is far from useless. You really need to pull your head out of your @$$. Look at it like this: Plenty of people drive around all day in their cars having no clue how it is engineered. Does that make it useless? Nope, its a tool and a tool is used in a specific manner, no matter if you know how it was engineered or not.
      OhTheHumanity
      • LOL....bad example..

        Not knowing how your car is engineered and not being allowed to even lift the hood or remove the cover to the fuse panel are two different things.

        Just pointing that out. Now back to questioning him on why this wouldn't be useful.
        storm14k
        • RE: bad example..

          No, it's actually a decent example. Apple is the example of the car that has to be returned when it runs out of gas.

          If this were a service in a SOA, with a defined API... Anyone could run queries. The question, as with anything on the web, is the security/accuracy of the service. I still don't believe the web does a good job of providing "trusted services".

          Even GPL code is meaningless to 90% of the living/breathing population. and there is plenty of garbage GPL code out there - sorry, GPL isn't the holy grail. It's either a good piece of code, or not, and it will be implemented well, or not.
          charlesk61
    • You're and idiot

      And I can't believe I wasted my even reading your post.

      Shame on me for thinking you had something useful to say.
      happyharry_z
    • uhm...yeah...

      cause, you know, you [i]want[/i] the criminals to have access to the code you're going to use to catch them. Surely they would only use that knowledge for the good of mankind, to help report and fix bugs and stuff, and in no way would they try to use that code to thwart the process.

      sheesh.
      bigsibling
      • Yeah that isn't a misnomer.

        If even that were the case, taking the source code to work around it, it still doesn't stop them from obtaining the software via another means and reverse engineering it. Do you really think that Human Traffickers really care about a EULA to find away around it?

        Child trafficking is a multibillion dollar industry, having to decode it is only a minor inconvenience.

        Other than that I think the original comment was pointless. Opensourced or not, makes no real difference to anyone.
        Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
  • Nudity != pornography

    Still no definition of what pr0n actually is. I know it when I see it seems to be the test.
    Roger Ramjet
    • pr0n is fine

      It's not illegal. Child porn is illegal, and this looks like a pretty ingenius way to locate servers hosting this type of data.

      It could also be used by people who create stock photography to verify their work is being used legimately.

      And finally, it could be used in the OS or cloud to minimize redundant photos in large collections of pics.

      I think it's a pretty cool technology.
      crazydanr@...
      • Big brother agrees with you

        If everything gets scrutinized, then nothing "harmful" will make it though . . .
        Roger Ramjet
      • Technology is cool...but he's still right.

        If you take a picture of your baby girl taking a bath and someone decides that its porn......?
        storm14k
        • Just Don't Do It!

          As far as parents taking pictures of their kids
          in the altogether, with the current climate of
          law enforcement and public opinion, the best
          advice is simply DON'T DO IT! And if perchance
          you have a perfectly innocent pic like this, by
          all means do NOT distribute, post, or otherwise
          get it anywhere near the internet, including
          email!

          These laws generally make no distinction of who
          takes the pic, whether it is their own kid, the
          intent, etc. And even if YOU or a reasonable
          person believes the image to be innocent, there
          are those out there who WILL see it as
          'stimulating'.

          Fairly recently, kids have been busted for
          taking pictures of themselves (since they were
          under 18) on their own cell phones ('sexting').

          Something way too dangerous to get even close
          to, better to err very much on the side of
          caution. Even if said image is found to be
          innocent, do you really need the exquisite
          aggravation of an investigation?
          ProfQuill
          • I agree, don't post it, keep it at home

            There is simply nothing wrong with nudity or having fun snaps of our family in this way. BUT I agree it is blatantly stupid to put them out to the public in any media.

            Would you put them on the front page of a news paper or the TV or some magazine? I doubt it!

            Facebook etc are the same as advertising over any media - be smart and teach your kids to be smart - don't advertise any personal details, including pics and video, on any media. The Internet is no safer than any other form of media, infact it can be far worse due to tracking, hacking etc.

            So by all means have your memories but don't risk providing them to disturbed minds, it encourages them. No one should claim nudity is wrong in any sense but given the very public knowledge of abuse of children only idiots would publicise their own family photos or family movies.

            As for the kids who do their own. Young kids will always experiment with their sexuality and nudity. We need to simply and responsibly, without scare mongering, teach them about the dangers of abuse and exploitation by adults.

            So don't stop taking your family pics but be smart about where you keep it. Saving it in the cloud is dangerous too as no one can guarantee your privacy 100% Keep it at home and stay safe.
            bsit@...
          • So you're saying

            don't legislate morality - only intelligence. Prevent stupid people from acting that way . . .
            Roger Ramjet
          • How pompous

            You either have the RIGHT to do something, or you do not. There is no advice needed.

            I believe that Naturalists would object to your "advice". Living a nude lifestyle is a choice - that Americans are still free to make.

            Outside of this puritanical country, there are other rules on this. What's legal in one country becomes illegal in another - but the internet has no borders. That makes things difficult to enforce.

            If there were a better definition of pr0n - which would spell out EXACTLY what was allowed and what wasn't, then I would be all for something like this. It is the SUBJECTIVE interpretation that I'm worried about.
            Roger Ramjet
  • This is still only a reactive response

    and in my opinion still cannot protect children from exploit.

    The key part of this technology is that it relies on a catalog of existing images. This doesn't stop the taking of new images, it really only catches the perv looking at the material, not the producer. Not to mention it fails to address the real problem

    The real problem is human trafficking. According to http://www.humantrafficking.org <i>"1.2 million children and babies are trafficked every year, including into Western Europe, the Americas and the Caribbean, and the number is increasing. Gangs involved in child and people trafficking make an estimated profit of US$ 32 billion per year."</i> and <i>"At any one time across the world, around 1.8 million children are being abused through prostitution, child pornography and sex tourism. In the UK there are 5,000 child prostitutes. 75% of them are girls."</i>

    There really needs to be a joint effort on the part of the world powers to crush human trafficking. Yes the people viewing these photo's and creating the demand should be arrested, but more needs to be done to prevent these crimes.
    Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
    • It could be very helpful

      The ability to track down images will lead to more arrests of distributors of this stuff. Taking them down along with their customers could make it a less profitable business. Ideally, it would become unprofitable. (Unfortunately, much as we'd like to string up the kidnappers and abusers, we aren't very likely to get our hands on many of them.)

      I question the ability to track down encrypted files, however, which these scubags probably use routinely.
      jpdemers@...
    • I agree

      It makes me angry thinking about human trafficking. It's not just children it afflicts either, but also adults. Either way, it pisses me off. Especially when it's for forced prostitution. It angers me especially because I'm asian, and I think to myself "how can you sell out and pimp your own people like some expendable commodity?!" Of course we can all feel this way because it happens across the world.
      midenginedrift