Microsoft, Canadian Authorities Team to Combat Child Porn

Gretchen Gallen
TORONTO – Nearly two years after Detective Sgt. Paul Gillespie of the Toronto Police Sex Crimes Unit sent an email to Microsoft's Bill Gates asking for a software solution to help in the investigation of child porn cases, Microsoft and Canadian authorities have finally launched the Child Exploitation Tracking System.

Designed to help Canadian investigators keep tabs on child porn traffickers, the CETS open source solution links Internet behavior related to credit card purchases, Internet chat room messages and arrest records, Microsoft announced in a statement.

Easily bundled with other types of agency software, CETS creates a searchable database that can trace similarities between cases and analyze and classify pictures deemed child pornography, making it easier for sex crime task forces to track down people who are directly involved in the dissemination of child porn.

Microsoft said that CETS is intended to put investigators on a level playing field with child predators and illegal content distributors who are typically difficult to track down online.

"Everyone owes Bill Gates a debt of gratitude for what his company has done to provide technical tools to international law enforcement for investigating child abusers and child pornographer distributors," Joan Irvine of the Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection told XBiz. "Many of these criminals are computer-savvy, located in various places in the world and use proxy servers to hide their location.

After an initial investment of $600,000, Microsoft's total tally on the CETS project is estimated to be around $4 million. The solution will soon be made available to worldwide task forces.

The CETS program was launched by Microsoft Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Toronto police, the Department of Homeland Security and Scotland Yard.

The launch of the program will also be accompanied by extensive training for the Canadian police force and an educational campaign directed at families with small children to better identify the risks of the Internet.

The release of CETS comes on the heels of recent reports that the online child porn epidemic has reached unprecedented proportions. Canadian police estimate that nearly 100,000 websites currently showcase illegal images of underage children.

Paula Knight of Microsoft Canada told XBiz that Microsoft has been in frequent contact with the Toronto Police Sex Crimes Unit since first receiving Sgt. Gillespie's email requesting assistance.

"Often what these officers find is that they are dealing with a very sophisticated level of technology and user knowledge on the part of the offenders," said Knight, adding that Microsoft's goal was to create a solution that would better equip investigative task forces to deal with child pornography and elevate the issue.

Microsoft Canada is the Canadian subsidiary of Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft Corp.