For years, we’ve been concerned about the online proliferation of what’s called “child pornography.” It’s more accurately described as “sexual assaults on children.” Photographic and video evidence of these crimes are uploaded to the Internet, re-victimizing kids again and again. Unfortunately, the Internet has increased the demand for these kinds of crimes against kids. Tens of millions of these files exist online.
We’ve written new laws to reduce crimes against kids, including a 2010 law that puts stronger penalties in place for posting videos or images of children being attacked.
Attorney General McKenna this week congratulated Facebook for deploying a powerful new program, developed by Microsoft, to combat terrible crimes against kids. The technology is described today on the New York Times Gagetwise blog: "Microsoft says it has refined a technology it created called PhotoDNA to identify the worst of these disturbing images — even if they are cropped or otherwise altered — and cull through large amounts of data quickly and accurately enough to police the world’s largest online services."
"I’m grateful to Microsoft for developing PhotoDNA, a program that speeds the identification of these illegal images so they may be removed from the Internet," McKenna said in a recorded message to employees of the tech firms. "I’m confident that this development will help remove millions of these horrific images from the Internet. Technology companies like Microsoft and Facebook are revolutionizing the way we communicate; the way we work and the way we play and interact with each other. And now, you're revolutionizing the ways in which we protect the most vulnerable among us."
On Microsoft's Official blog, Bill Harmon, an attorney in the company's Digital Crimes Unit, explains more about the genesis of PhotoDNA:
In partnership with [The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children , or NCMEC], Dartmouth College, Microsoft Research, Windows Live, Bing and many others, Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit has long worked to advance innovations and strong partnerships to combat child exploitation. In 2009, Microsoft, working with digital imaging expert Dr. Hany Farid of Dartmouth College, developed PhotoDNA and freely licensed it to NCMEC for use in a program to disrupt the online distribution of the worst known images of child pornography known to NCMEC.
How else might PhotoDNA come in handy? Here's what AG McKenna said to the New York Times:
PhotoDNA has potential future applications in areas like protecting intellectual property and could aid law enforcement. Rob McKenna, the state attorney general in Washington, said his office is interested in its potential to bolster cases against pedophiles who have molested multiple children by identifying photographs of multiple crimes that occurred in the same physical setting.