Data Sharing is Transforming Interagency Collaboration — But the Online Fight Against Child Abusers is Far From Over

18 November, 2019

Johann Hofmann, CEO of Griffeye

Without data sharing and transparency between law enforcement agencies, the online battle against child abusers is unwinnable.

In recent years, this reality has become abundantly clear to agencies across the globe. Alongside tech providers, they have successfully begun to close the gap between themselves and producers and consumers of child sexual abuse material (CSAM).

By developing progressive initiatives like Project VIC and building technological integrations, the plague of CSAM is now combatted much more effectively. Empowered to access the right data at the right time, law enforcement can find the clues needed to prosecute perpetrators and safeguard victims in days or weeks rather than months or years.

However, there is still so much to be done to optimise global collaboration and further develop the toolkit available to investigators working with solving these heinous crimes. That is why strategic partnerships between companies like Griffeye and CameraForensics are more important than ever before.

Eureka Moment

Working “smarter” takes on a whole new level of significance in the investigation of CSAM. Data silos and the duplication of police work can literally cost lives. Innovators in the child protection industry realised this many years ago and sought the help of expert technology providers to stop the spread of CSAM.

In the past, the approaches of law enforcement agencies and tech providers weren’t joined up by a supportive infrastructure to promote good practice and collaboration as it is today. This meant that Griffeye and CameraForensics met the old-fashioned way – through a mutual friend, who was a passionate investigator with an aim to achieve more by applying novel technology.

Our shared, mission-based mindset made collaboration easy and it quickly became clear that our tools could be integrated for the benefit of investigators. By combining CameraForensics’s open source indexing technology and Griffeye’s advanced processing software, investigators would be able to sift through large volumes of images in significantly more effective ways. Through automated image searching they would be able to find open source images and automatically match them with covert personas producing and distributing CSAM on the darknet. This was our “Eureka” moment.

Overcoming Barriers

Data sharing in law enforcement is complex for obvious reasons. But the case for leveraging the technology provided by Griffeye and CameraForensics is made stronger by the fact that we both work with open source data in ways that avoid sharing contraband data. This means data can be shared across agencies without compromising ongoing investigations.

Griffeye’s scalable design platform also allows investigators to differentiate between new material and old images that have already been processed. By preventing needless exposure to duplicate images, investigators can be kept in the fight against CSAM longer.

A Borderless Crime

As members of Project VIC, Griffeye and CameraForensics are motivated to improve data sharing and collaboration across borders, ensuring that the right people can access the right data at the right time. Challenges that prevent seamless collaboration across the globe still remain, but work is being done to provide law enforcement agencies with state-of-the-art tools which will help them to tackle the scourge of CSAM in a modern and effective way.

These moves are incredibly important, as abusers continue to find new ways to get away with their crimes. A disturbing but now established trend is abuse being committed in real time, on demand, which leaves little or no trace. Sexual predators are also increasingly exploiting terminology loopholes and poor legislative standardisation across borders. Targeting countries with limited resources to fund thorough and complete investigations gives them a leg up, making it less likely that they will be brought to justice.

All of these factors emphasise the point that the investigation of CSAM must be part of a wider geopolitical conversation about socio-economic inequality, and that data sharing and collaboration across borders still have some way to go before being truly optimised.

The Fight Goes On

Our goal is, and will always be, to build solutions that optimise efficiency and effectiveness in order to help investigators overcome their everyday challenges. One recent example being the new Griffeye Intelligence Database, which is built to enhance collaboration between agencies by allowing them to seamlessly share intelligence internationally, nationally and between districts.

But with data constantly evolving and expanding, new gaps are always opening up for criminals to exploit. So, if we are to stay ahead of the curve and safeguard more victims in the future, we must continue to develop and strengthen collaborative efforts.

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