MS to Combat Illicit Child Photos with PhotoDNA

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft has announced their involvement in the war against illicit child photos by creating a new software tool that will give those looking to abolish such unethical material an upper hand. The software, which is somewhat similar to an antivirus program, will identify signatures in content to find images of those being abused.

Microsoft researchers worked alongside Dartmouth College computer science professor Henry Farid to produce PhotoDNA. The software is able to accurately pinpoint certain characteristics in digital images that computers can scan online.

Said Farid, "The basic idea is that you extract a unique signature from an image. It is similar, hence the name, to human DNA."

Software can Identify Manipulations

PhotoDNA is much different than current digital image-identification software, because it is able to locate certain signatures even if the size, color or other characteristic has been altered. Image manipulation is very much a common practice on the Internet, especially as it pertains to adult genre in general. (Source:

Images Can Last Forever Online

However, while the offender may get arrested, the images continue to exist in the online world. The situation turns into a pandemic the longer these images remain on the Internet. (Source:

"We have very young children who are being victimized in serious ways and it continues as long as these images are online," Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith lamented. "We can't allow people to keep trading these horrifying images online when we have the technology to do something about it."

PhotoDNA and Bing Search Engine

PhotoDNA may soon be incorporated into the Microsoft Bing search engine. However, critics have raised a valid point in questioning the existence of illicit child photos in emails and other private accounts.

Naturally, Microsoft will have a few bugs to work out, but their involvement in the war against the abuse is definitely a step in the right direction. Microsoft plans to give the software to the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) when it is completed.

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