NEWS

More child porn caught by photo software

03/26/2012 08:23 EDT | Updated 05/26/2012 05:12 EDT

Police are cracking down on child pornography with greater speed, thanks to new software that can recognize digital photographs, even those that are modified as they're passed among pedophiles, according to the RCMP.

A Microsoft program called PhotoDNA can identify any copy of an image it has been asked to remember, even if the image is altered or saved in different formats, says Sgt. Arnold Guerin, who is the technology manager for the RCMP's National Child Exploitation Co-ordination Centre.

Some child-pornography investigations involve sorting through millions of photographs, which takes up a lot of time.

"We're now making seizures in the five or six million range," Guerin said, "Sorting through this to find the needle in the haystack that we're really after becomes a size problem."

Helps find missing children

The new software is expected to not only identify key photos, but also help find missing children who are victims to child pornography.

"They (police) can better spend their time doing new investigations, rather than poring over the amount of material that we've already seized," added Guerin, who is working in Ottawa on loan from the Saanich, B.C. police department.

"And with that new investigative time, they can go and do more search warrants, do more arrests and find and rescue more kids."

PhotoDNA was developed to protect Microsoft's own file-sharing network from pedophiles and pornographers. When police agencies worldwide expressed an interest in it, the program was offered to police departments for free.

The U.S. Center for Missing and Exploited Children provides the unique signatures of some of the worst images passing through the child-porn world.

If someone tries to share a copy of a catalogued image, it can be blocked and the information of the person who had it can be handed over to police.

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