Microsoft Creating Safer Spaces for Children
"Our vision is to support more effective child-exploitation policing by enabling collaboration and information sharing across police services. The tracking system will serve as a repository of information and will also be used as an investigative tool."
- David Hemler, president, Microsoft Canada.
The exploitation of children is one of our society's most heinous crimes. While progress has been made in apprehending and arresting predators, regrettably, the online exploitation of children continues to proliferate. Microsoft Canada is committed to keeping kids safe online and works aggressively with law enforcement to create technological tools that assist police in child exploitation investigations. The Child Exploitation Tracking System (CETS) is a result of this collaboration.
The History of CETS: The desperate plea for help
In 2003, the Toronto Police Service seized over two million images of child exploitation. Tired of the bad guys being two steps ahead of the police, former Det. Sgt. Paul Gillespie e-mailed Bill Gates directly to ask for help.
In response to that email, Microsoft Canada began working with Canadian law enforcement agencies including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Toronto Police Service (TPS). Together, they developed the most advanced software tool ever in the fight against online child abuse, the Child Exploitation Tracking System (CETS). CETS is housed at the RCMP's National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre (NCECC) in Ottawa. This software was developed by Microsoft and is given away free of charge to any law enforcement agency that wants it.
Better communication: Law enforcement agencies now have the power to work seamlessly across borders, using the best technological tools available.
"CETS allows the police to assemble an investigative puzzle where pieces are spread out over Canada, and in some cases around the world," says Constable Detective Arnold Guerin, Technology Manager National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre, Royal Canadian Mounted Police. "By collaborating using CETS police are able to share information regardless of jurisdiction."
More efficient investigations: CETS allows police agencies to share crucial information that had previously gone unshared. The system also makes critical links between pieces of information that have been overlooked or lost in the sheer volume of Internet traffic.
"CETS' greatest success has been in eliminating duplicate investigations," said Guerin. "Where a target has already been investigated and convicted, CETS has reduced the need to re-investigate a suspect. However, in cases where a suspect re-offends, CETS allows the investigator to hit the ground running knowing the previous offence history."
CETS has united law enforcement agencies in Canada and around the world. CETS is currently being used by law enforcement across Canada as well as in the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Romania, Australia, Indonesia, and Chile.
"CETS has enabled the Child Exploitation Section of the Toronto Police Service to proactively investigative Internet crimes against children by facilitating the sharing of information and open communication between law enforcement agencies," said Det. Sgt. Kim Scanlan, Child Exploitation Section, Sex Crimes Unit, Toronto Police Service. "It gives us the tools to be technologically aggressive combating online predators that use the anonymity of the Internet to lure and sexually abuse vulnerable children. While this technology helps greatly with investigations, we need to remain diligent about educating parents and children of the dangers that online predators pose."
CETS continues to make a vital contribution to international policing and child protection. The accomplishments are numerous, including:
- Since 2001, the Toronto Police Service's Child Exploitation Section has arrested 145 individuals and rescued/identified 66 victims.
- Since launching CETS in the UK in 2006, 138 children have been saved from abuse, 240 arrests have been made and three international pedophile rings dismantled.
- In March 2006, an international pornography ring was busted, resulting in charges against dozens of people in five countries. Nine people were charged in Canada, largely due to the work of Edmonton and Toronto police forces.
- Just two months later, a 13-year-old victim of online pornography asked U.S. Congress to allow for greater judicial compensation for victims. Her abuser was captured thanks to the work of Toronto sex crimes detectives who were able to identify where her photos were taken and eventually help to capture her abuser, the man who adopted her.
The future of CETS:
CETS continues to evolve because it is based primarily on community participation and feedback from law enforcement agencies. CETS 2.0 further increases the impact and effectiveness of child exploitation investigators leveraging the latest Microsoft-based technologies and allows for greater real-time collaboration.
"The nature of online child sexual exploitation is complex but so is CETS, which continues to evolve to meet law enforcement's changing requirements," said Michael Eisen, Chief Legal Officer, Microsoft Canada. "CETS is a prime example of how the private and public sectors can work together toward a common goal - in this case working to eradicate online child sexual exploitation, a truly malicious and heinous crime."