The Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit are a team of lawyers, investigators, technical analysts and other specialists working in cooperation with the Trustworthy Computing and Global Corporate Affairs groups at Microsoft to combat digital crime, including crimes against children. They work in partnership with law enforcement agencies across the globe, and their latest announcement is aimed to help defeat one particularly hideous area of crime – the sexual abuse and exploitation of children online.
Through a new partnership between Microsoft and NetClean, PhotoDNA technology developed by Microsoft will be made available to law enforcement at no charge. The technology will be incorporated in NetClean Analyze, the Child Exploitation Tracking System (already provided to and used by Australian authorities) and via direct licensing.
PhotoDNA will help law enforcement more quickly identify and rescue victims and hopefully lead to the arrest and conviction of those who perpetrate crimes against children. PhotoDNA is a signature-based image-matching technology developed by Microsoft Research in partnership with Dartmouth College and is already used by Microsoft and Facebook to find child sexual abuse images uploaded to our services. The technology not only detects matches but enables reporting of suspect images to law enforcement agencies for investigation. It helps calculate the distinct characteristics of a digital image to match it to other copies of that same image and can match images that are not digitally identical, making it possible to match images accurately and rapidly across millions of files – even if photos have subtle differences such as being resized, etc.
Originally designed for use by ISP’s, law enforcement globally voiced strong interest in the potential use of PhotoDNA in child sexual exploitation investigations, so the Digital Crimes Unit talked with many of the leading law enforcement agencies around the world and as a result, made PhotoDNA available to them – you can see how its being used in this YouTube video from the team.
You can read more about this project on our Australian GovTech blog