Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Google Invests $7 Mill to Stop Child Porn Access

Jacquelline Fuller, the director of Google Giving, recently announced that the company's investing $5 million to support efforts by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) and international organizations to rid the web of child exploitation. Google's also ponying up $2 million to encourage more effective tool development to combat Internet child sexual abuse.

To underscore the urgency of its effort, Google reports that the NCMEC’s CyberTipline reviewed 17.3 million suspected child sexual abuse images in 2011 – quadruple the amount seen in 2007 by its Exploited Children's Division.

Fuller says the search engine has used hashing technology to tag offending child sexual images with unique computer-recognized ID's since 2008.  What's new, the announcement declared, is that Google's beginning to "incorporate encrypted 'fingerprints' of child sexual abuse images into a cross-industry database [that other tech] companies, law enforcement and charities [will share] to better collaborate on detecting and removing these images, and to take action against the criminals."
However, some critics say these measures do not go far enough, since they narrowly focus on the searchable web. It's said that this web-based focus may neglect the shadow Internet and peer-to-peer (P2P) networks, which allow child predators to directly share pornographic images with one another without going through a central server or search engine. As an alternative, NetClean CEO Christian Berg claims to provide technology that can scan servers, laptops and desktops for known child abuse images, rather than URL-based tools that Google is using: "We’re not talking about URLs, but actual files, which means we can find things on USB sticks too," says Berg. He adds that the next step is "to do an investigation and notify the police."

Google's multi-million dollar cooperative investment, when added to existing and emerging technology, appears to be a strong step in the right direction to put criminal child sexual abuse images in the hands of law enforcement and out of the public domain. says "Law enforcement agencies are already using PhotoDNA to track and identify offending images. ... 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."

What can you do? Start a conversation with your children (or keep one going) so they feel comfortable discussing online problems they encounter, and cyber risks, including:
  • consequences of revealing personal information (name, age, address, telephone, pictures)
  • "private chats" with a stranger
  • meeting alone with anyone they met online 
  • predators seeking child victims and lying about their age, sex, and identity
  • responding to suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or harassing messages – instead, report these messages to CyberTipline or the police
Tweens and teens also need to know that sexting (sending a nude or semi-nude image in a text to someone) is a form of child pornography, even if the minor created the image. Besides ruining a child's reputation among their peers when these images are shared, they can end up in the hands of child predators or sextortionists.

If your teenager needs to talk to someone but may feel more comfortable talking to another teen, they can call Teen Line for confidential help and support at 800-852-8336 every evening 6 to 10 p.m. Or they can text "TEEN" to 839863.

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