TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Interpol Uses Technology to Fight Child Porn

Interpol Uses Technology to Fight Child Porn

Mark Trevelyan (
Wed, 21 Sep 2005 14:34:46 -0500

By Mark Trevelyan, Security Correspondent

Interpol will launch a big push to identify child sex victims and
prosecute abusers with the help of special software that can minutely
analyze pornographic images, many from the Internet, and spot vital
background clues.

Hamish McCulloch, a British investigator at Interpol who specializes
in child porn, said police around the world will get access to the
technology via a 3.2 million euro image database to be funded by the
Group of Eight (G8) leading nations.

He said it should lead to a big rise in the number of countries
submitting child porn images to Interpol -- currently fewer than 20 --
and in the number of victims found and rescued.

"Currently investigations tend to focus on trying to seize computers,
forensically examine the hard drive and obtain the evidence to
prosecute for possession or distribution (of child pornography),"
McCulloch told Reuters in an interview.

"The countries who are saying 'let's try to identify the victim' are
limited. And that's really where the push has got to go ... Once you've
identified the victim, you've identified the abuser. The vast majority
are identified through the victims."

Since 2001, the world police organization Interpol has built up a vast
store of hundreds of thousands of pornographic images showing up to
20,000 different children.

It has managed to identify and rescue 346, with the largest numbers
coming from Sweden, the United States and Germany -- a positive
reflection, McCulloch says, on the commitment of police in those

Until now, countries that want to run checks on new images have had to
send requests to Interpol's headquarters in France to be handled by
two specialist officers.

But with the G8 project, now being put out to commercial tender, the
system will be automated and widened so police anywhere can conduct
their own searches around the clock to check if newly found images
match those already stored.

The specialized software can match not only victims but also crime
scenes, even when the images in question are taken in apparently
anonymous indoor settings.

Analyzing a photo of a young girl discovered on a computer in the
United States, for example, the Interpol team found a match with four
pictures from Belgium, showing a different child in the same room.

The computer made the connection by recognizing the wallpaper and the
distinctive floral pattern on a pillowcase. Police were eventually
able to trace the victims and the abuser.

In another case, McCulloch believes police are now close to arresting
a pedophile in Poland who has posted child porn that was submitted to
Interpol by Sweden and Canada.

The key lead now is a series of photographs showing the man exposing
himself in his car as young children walk past. McCulloch says he is
confident police will track down the scene, and the culprit, from
details glimpsed in the background of the pictures, such as buildings,
graffiti and trees.

While the Internet remains flooded with child pornography -- after
all, about sixty percent of the internet is pornography of one kind
or another, and child pornography is about twenty percent of that,
"With three clicks you can find images of child abuse very easily" --
McCulloch believes the new technology significantly raises the chances
of catching offenders.

"People who believed they were not going to be identified and
prosecuted and go to prison are finding law enforcement are knocking
on their door in every corner of the world, from information that
someone thousands of miles away has found on a PC and forwarded
through Interpol channels."

Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.

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[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Do any readers have more precise
figures than this? I guess it could be said that 'the internet is
about sixty percent pornography of one kind or another' and 'child
pornography is about twenty percent of that', and I suppose that would
consitute a 'flood' of it; but what are the actual figures as best
anyone can estimate? I know it is pretty awful, but I would have to
challenge the figures given. PAT]

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