The Child Abuse Image Database that will speed up police investigations into suspected paedophiles is to be launched by David Cameron on 11 December
A massive database containing information relating to millions of photos and videos of child sexual abuse is to launch on 11 December.
The Child Abuse Image Database (Caid), developed by the Home Office, is designed to help police share information and speed up the identification of both child victims of sexual abuse and their abusers.
The aim of the database is to avoid duplication of work by different law enforcement agencies. 46 different bodies will be able to share information about cases, search seized devices for explicit material and quickly search for and differentiate between known and unseen material.
Caid – which will only be accessed by authorised officers – will have tools to quickly collect, forensically analyse and correlate child sexual abuse material in a secure environment.
It uses digital fingerprinting technology to assign a unique signature to each picture, then new material can be introduced to the system to automatically scan and match the images.
It will also extract GPS data and other information in order to try and find out where the pictures were taken.
New material is usually of particular concern as it suggest new abuse – and police need to focus their attentions on those cases.
It could reduce workload by as much as 90%, according to Johann Hofmann from Netclean, speaking to the BBC.
At the moment, when police seize computers or memory sticks with images on them they have to go through them manually and categorise the severity of the content in order to build a case for prosecution.
However, there’s a real shortage of forensic experts to analyse all these images so many go unexamined.
The current process is also extremely emotionally challenging for the officers involved.
“It’s horrendous at times, clicking through image after image,” said former child protection officer Tom Simmons to the BBC.
“You could be seeing children effectively being tortured – that does become very difficult sometimes to get those images out of your head.”
The launch of the database comes after reports have revealed that individuals with a sexual interest in children who produce and distribute child abuse material are becoming more entrepreneurial – using hidden services like Tor, private peer-to-peer networks and digital currencies that are difficult to track, such as Bitcoin.
There is also a trend for abuse being carried out remotely on demand and then livestreamed back to paying customer.
These webcam sessions usually allow a paedophile to make requests for certain types of abuse to be carried out on their behalf – the victim can often be thousands of miles away in parts of the world where the law doesn’t protect children as well.
A recent sting caught child predators seeking services of this nature using a computer-generated child called Sweetie.