The importance of user-focused tools in CSE investigations

4 November, 2020

The importance of user-focused tools in CSE investigations

Investigating child sexual exploitation (CSE), online terrorism, sex trafficking, grooming and other related crimes is an extremely difficult, but important job. Unfortunately, the number of cases law enforcement receive, and the victims impacted by online criminal activity is rapidly growing.

We started CameraForensics to empower these people doing great work to achieve more through technology. In doing so, we strive to create completely user-focused tools that are centred around their needs, challenges, and objectives – for the benefit of investigators and victims.

What does it mean to build tools for the user?

When we design our tools, we put the user at the centre of all our decision-making. The reason we add new functionality to our platform and develop the technology is solely to empower our users to help more victims.

So the main question we ask before every action is; “How will this help investigators and the victims they’re working to protect?”

The only way to authentically achieve tools built for the users is to build relationships with them. We have an amazing network of law enforcement agents, investigators, and NGOs who we lean upon throughout the development process.

By understanding the problems they face every day and what technology they need to get the job done, we can create tools that will actually make a difference.

Why are user-focused tools important in this industry?

Fundamentally our users are doing an incredibly important job. They’re on the front line tackling online crime, trying to identify and protect vulnerable victims and stop the people causing harm.

What we can do to support them is create user-focused and fit-for-purpose tools. Our aim is to provide them with solutions that can save them time, resources, effort, and ultimately help them close more cases.

These roles – searching for victims, who are often children, and being exposed to heinous crimes – are also extremely taxing mentally, emotionally and physically. User-focused tools are important because they take these burdens into account and attempt to ease their impacts as much as possible.

What are the benefits for the end-user during investigations?

We have prioritised certain features for our platform based on the challenges our users need technology to help them overcome. The design of our platform capabilities has been influenced by the way investigators work, and therefore offer the following benefits:

Efficiency

One of the primary blockers to investigators is the sheer workload they have to cope with. This has become even more prevalent now that various COVID-19 lockdown measures have been implemented around the globe, causing significant rises in the distribution of material and grooming online.

Efficiency in their work is therefore key. Using technology, such as the CameraForensics platform, can help investigators find evidence, investigate leads, and identify victims much quicker.

Ease of use

A user-focused tool should never be difficult to use. Its purpose is to support people to do their job and eradicate as many barriers to achieving this as possible. For example, the CameraForensics platform can automatically search through huge databases of images and find links or clues.

By making digital image forensics a more seamless process, investigators can then focus on what’s really important.

What key features should user-focused crime investigation software have?

In particular for crime investigation, there are several key features we have identified that are integral for investigator users and that facilitate user-focused benefits:

Interoperability

We believe open data sharing, cross-border collaboration, and tool integration are absolutely imperative to making investigators’ lives easier. From the simple things, like not having to shift between interfaces, to more impactful elements, such as having access to critical evidence, interoperable technology and processes can make a huge difference to the success of a case.

That’s why we integrate our tools with other solution providers like Paliscope and strive to create a wide network of collaborators, technology partners and users. Some of our partnerships include:

  • Project VIC
  • Paliscope
  • Griffeye
  • Pathfinder Labs
  • Qumodo
  • Safer Society Group
  • NetClean
  • BMT
  • Committed

RELATED: Paliscope: Why we believe it’s important to integrate tools

Training tools

The training burden for investigators – who are already time-pressured – should be as low as possible. We want them to be able to get the absolute most out of the resources available to them as soon as possible.

Our platform capabilities, workflows and interface are designed to be extremely intuitive, so they’re straightforward to use from day one. Making tools interoperable with existing resources that investigators use also makes them even easier to adopt and integrate into the day-to-day.

We also have a Learn platform which provides our users with guides and advice on how to use our tools, in order to support investigators to get the most value out of our platform capabilities and work more effectively.

Big Search capability

A more comprehensive tool will be more efficient and frequently used. Introducing the Big Search capability means investigators can do more, simultaneously. Using CameraForensics, they will receive more intelligence, faster.

What are the benefits to the victims?

Ultimately, by better supporting our users we are helping the victims they are working to identify and protect. This is the main benefit and drive to doing what we do.

Greater case capacity

Simply, with better tools investigators can work more quickly, close cases sooner, and therefore help more people.

Work smarter

With the right tools, investigators can find evidence that can’t be found in other ways, giving the victims a greater chance of being found. Data sharing in particular allows users to get access to more information and identify crucial links that enable them to progress their case.

Deconfliction

Another important aspect of data sharing is victim status. What can sometimes happen in investigations around child sexual exploitation (CSE) or abuse materials online, is that an investigator will spend hours, or weeks, trying to identify someone who has already been saved.

Alternatively, several investigators around the globe can unknowingly be working on the same case but with different pieces of the puzzle. This is a huge drain on resources and mental well-being for investigators, but principally impacts the victims they’re searching for.

Having a shared database or common protocol for victim status can help save more lives, by combining intelligence and reducing the time spent on cases globally.

Collaboration

Similarly, we are developing a capability that enables investigators who have the same interests or are working on the same case to link up. With greater manpower, investigators can achieve more and solve cases quicker.

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In what ways is the CF platform designed to the benefit of the user?

We try to always put our users and their victims first. Through R&D projects, building industry networks, and talking to investigators, we strive to find new ways to make useful connections between images and get greater intelligence to empower our users.

CameraForensics is continually adapting to the needs of our users and broadening our scope to accommodate for the growing challenges of online crime investigation.

Get in touch with us to find out more about our platform solutions and how they can help your organisation.


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