Google Tracks Child Predators

Dennis Faas's picture

A program originally designed to block pirated videos on YouTube will now assist tracking child predators on the web. The technology, developed by Google, will help the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) in reviewing 13 million images of abuse. (Source:

A key component of the new program has been described as "finger-printing technology".  Google has been advocating the measure as a standard to combat web-based video piracy. "The program uses pattern recognition and will work even if the pattern has been modified," technology analyst Larry Magid told the BBC. "So if police can identify a pattern such as a calendar on the wall or a t-shirt logo, they have a much better chance of finding the exploited child and catching the suspect." (Source:

Ernie Allen, the NCMEC's president, remarked how vital the technology will be in accurately tracking and sorting large amount of data. Previously, tracking was "dependent on the memory of the analyst who was already overwhelmed by the sheer number of content we were receiving," Allen said. (Source:

However, with the Centre sorting through an average of 5 million images a year that method was clearly insufficient.

Shumeet Baluja, who led the engineering team that created the software, said, "You always hope that your work will eventually be used to do some good in the world, and this was an amazing chance to make that hope real."

The project was created through a Google policy that allows employees to devote one day a week to a special project of their choice. While it is unknown how many of these projects wind up in the reject pile, previous successes include Google News and the software giant's own social networking site, Orkut.

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