It seems to me that whenever law enforcement begins using some new technology, I always have a negative reaction. All too often, technology makes it easier to invade people’s privacy or deprive them of liberties that they may have once cherished. So it’s good to see an information technology project in the UK that I think is actually an absolute positive. When child pornography is discovered, it’s been someone’s job to see whether the pictures are of a new victim or an existing victim, and to try to suss out hteir identity. Unfortunately, that generally meant that the person had the soul crushing task of scouring a database of child porn to try to make the determination (and I can imagine that such a process is incredibly inaccurate). So the British government is using pattern matching software to analyze new images and compare them to images in the database using a facial recognition algorithm. I heard on the radio this morning that they system even makes it possible to do things like identify siblings, which was much more difficult before.
Unlike the stupid idea of trying to identify terrorists in public places using facial recognition, the scope here is much more reasonable and much more likely to be effective. Nobody’s rights are being violated, and the system seems to have a real chance of helping to prevent the exploitation of children in this way. A system like this is also much better suited to enabling law enforcement agencies around the world check their photos against the central database, which is really useful given that there are no barriers to trafficking child pornography digitally.