Home secretary unveils new tech tools to help police combat child abuse

Algorithmic programs will help process images, reducing officers’ exposure

Home secretary Sajid Javid (on the right) pictured examining the new technology with Mark Stokes, head of the cyber forensics unit of London’s Metropolitan Police   Credit: Crown Copyright/Open Government Licence

Home secretary Sajid Javid has unveiled a trio of tech tools that are being made available to police forces to help them combat child sexual abuse.

The technologies will augment the Child Abuse Image Database, which was launched by the Home Office in 2014 to help support investigations of online sexual exploitation and abuse. 

The first of the three is “a fast-forensic” tool which can quickly scan devices and identify images that have already been logged by law enforcement. The technology can scan a 1TB drive in just half an hour – compared with the 24 hours the process currently takes, according to the government.

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The second tool is an algorithm that can help police “identify and categorise the severity of illegal imagery”. It can assess 2,000 images per hour and grade them from C to A – the most severe category. 

Although officers will still have to verify its results, the government said that hopes “this is the first step to use computers to relieve investigators of the psychological pressures of viewing the imagery”.

The third new technology made available to officers has “a capability to detect images with matching scenes”. This will make it easier to identify victims, according to the government.

“Vile predators who are creating, viewing or sharing indecent imagery of children are constantly adapting their tactics to evade capture,” Javid said. “We must move at the same pace and evolve to ensure we catch these paedophiles, bring them to justice and protect vulnerable victims. This game-changing tech will help us do this and will be vital in the fight against online child abusers.”


Sam Trendall

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