Internet search-giant Google says it is launching a program to "fingerprint" millions of child pornography and abuse images floating in cyberspace as a way of attempting to permanently eradicate them.
Google has used “hashing” technology since 2008 to tag images of child sex abuse and help identify duplicates. That process creates a unique ID used to track the images without having to have anyone view them. But Google said on its official blog over the weekend that it is implementing a new technology that will allow it to encrypt “fingerprints” of the child abuse images.
The "fingerprinting" is part of a $5 million program that will enable corporations, law enforcement agencies and charities to detect and remove the images, as well as track those producing and sharing the images, Google said.
“We’re in the business of making information widely available, but there’s certain “information” that should never be created or found,” Jacquelline Fuller, the director of Google Giving, said in a blog post. “We can do a lot to ensure it’s not available online—and that when people try to share this disgusting content they are caught and prosecuted.”
Google also announced a $2 million Child Protection Technology Fund designed to encourage other tools for dealing with the images.
The scope of the problem is huge. In 2011, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s (NCMEC’s) Cybertipline received 17.3 million images and videos of suspected child abuse, Google said. That was a fourfold increase from 2007.
But Google is not alone in the attempt to hunt down kiddie porn. Its technology would be in addition to other services already in use.
For example, Microsoft and Dartmouth College developed PhotoDNA in 2009. That technology is already used by online service providers to help identify child pornography. Facebook uses PhotoDNA on its service.
Law enforcement agencies are already using PhotoDNA to track and identify offending images. PhotoDNA also keeps track of the images even after they are cropped or altered by criminals.
It’s possible law enforcement agencies could now use both the “fingerprints” and “DNA” of images and videos as a means of tackling tens of millions of images.