Investigators Credit Microsoft for Child Porn Arrests
Investigators credit Microsoft’s Child Exploitation Tracking System with being their greatest aid in cracking the ring, which used chatrooms and peer-to-peer services to conceal their identities and freely trade illegal images and video of children.
Microsoft first developed CETS in 2003 after a group of Canadian criminal investigators asked the technology giant for help in their mission to more quickly and efficiently hunt down child pornographers.
The program, which was eventually developed in conjunction with the Toronto police department and Microsoft Canada, links police forces all around the world and provides a database of images that are uncovered during investigations, enabling separate investigation units to come together in their crackdown on child pornography groups and individuals.
CETS keeps tabs on child porn traffickers, credit card purchases, Internet chatroom messages and arrest records, and when bundled with other types of agency software, it creates a searchable database that can trace similarities between cases and analyze and classify pictures deemed child pornography.
After releasing the software product in 2005, Microsoft said CETS was intended to put investigators on a level playing field with child predators and illegal content distributors who are typically difficult to track down online.
In the case of the recent child porn crackdown, CETS enabled investigators to link the activities of individuals in Canada, the United States, Britain and Australia and gain access to their private chatroom circles by sharing child pornography images known to have been shared among the group’s members.
"To get past those barriers you had to demonstrate your interest in child pornography images by sharing child pornography images that you already opened," Staff Insp. Jane Wilcox told the Toronto news.
Police also were able to gain anonymous entry into the chatrooms by using the onscreen identity of a Canadian man who had already been arrested for possession of child porn and who initially tipped police off as to the group’s existence.
That man, Carl Treleaven, 49, has already been sentenced to 3½ years in jail for possessing and distributing child pornography.
One of the group’s chatrooms was maintained by a host who used the screen name G.O.D. He was later identified as Royal Weller, of Clarksville, Tenn., and was arrested March 6.
Nine of the suspects arrested so far in the case are from Canada, 13 from the United States, three from Australia and two from Britain.
U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales called the case one of the “worst imaginable forms of child pornography.”