Getting the most from image forensics tools [for the users]

26 January, 2021

Dave Ranner

Getting the most from image forensics tools [for the users]

Digital image forensics tools are a huge technological support for criminal investigators. They enable law enforcement to uncover intelligence, find previously unknown links between images, and ultimately discover new leads which help them progress their cases.

But even at a simpler level, they are primarily there to ease the burden of investigators’ jobs – by automating the process of searching through thousands of images, speeding up investigative processes, and reducing their exposure to graphic imagery.

Therefore, if a solution isn’t easy to use, better than the manual process, or can’t perform certain critical investigative functions, then it defeats the purpose of using it at all.

That’s why it’s so important that these tools are built to extremely high standards, constantly improved, and designed with user needs at their centre.

Main features every digital image forensics tool should have:

  • Analyse large amounts of data quickly and seamlessly

  • Uncover intelligence from large amounts of data

  • Filter our data that isn’t relevant

  • Identify what intelligence is important to the user

  • Identify how many digital devices exist in one location

  • Search through different online sources; including offline databases, the open web, cloud accounts and social media platforms

The key challenges

Like any other technology, there are key challenges associated with building and innovating image forensics tools. There are 3 primary issues we try to consider when creating our platform capabilities:

Focusing on the user

Despite being the number one objective for most SaaS developers, it can be difficult to build a fully user-focused tool. Not only do developers need to identify and understand their users’ main pain points, but they need to create a unique and efficient way to solve it.

CameraForensics approaches this challenge by working as closely with our users as possible. We talk and collaborate with law enforcement to understand their fundamental needs, from their perspective.

Technical hurdles

Our aim is to translate user challenges into tangible, technological solutions. One of the biggest challenges for investigators is getting through massive amounts of data to increase their intelligence – but managing huge databases in an efficient way can be difficult.

Our platform uses scalable cloud resources and the database holds over 3 billion images. Users can also flexibly demand more processing power, as and when they need it.

Different user needs

Every user we work with has a different need, technical skill, and level of training. Some of our law enforcement users have been performing image forensics every day for 20 years, while others are using this technique for the first time. It’s important that we support and empower all these users equally.

We get feedback from our users during development to ensure our platform works for every level of skills and directly solves key pain points. We also provide training material through our Learn platform and by hosting talks at specialist events.

How to improve investigative tools

We believe that creating and improving investigative tools is our responsibility as technology developers in this field. We create these products to help investigators tackle online crime and safeguard victims of sexual exploitation. This fight is always evolving – and we are committed to meeting the new developments and challenges that arise from that.

But it’s also a collective process. We can’t create the right tools in isolation. We need help from both our users and other organisations in the field to accelerate our progress and achieve this mission.

RELATED: The importance of user-focused tools in CSE investigations

The role of technology providers and developers

Develop tools collaboratively

Technology providers can create more appropriate, more effective tools by hearing from their users and inputting their feedback or suggestions. Getting involved in industry events or contacting them directly gives you the opportunity to better understand their needs.

We are also always open to new partnerships and integrations, such as our platform integration with Paliscope Discovry,

Challenge assumptions

Criminals are getting more sophisticated and covert – we need to rise to this challenge. It’s important to keep pushing your boundaries; to be open to fresh perspectives and ideas that test your capabilities and drive improvement.

Embed a user-focused culture

When creating technology for good, embedding the right culture is a high priority.

Some things we think are important to encourage in order to create truly user-focused tools are:

  • Being able to challenge decisions and assumptions

  • Being encouraged to identify issues and be part of the solution

  • Listening to and implementing internal and external feedback

  • Collaboration within the organisation

  • Building networks with external organisations in the industry

  • Being encourages to keep learning and evolving

How to get the most out of your tools

There are also several steps the user can take once they have the platform to ensure they get the most out of their tools:

  • Attend industry and technology events wherever possible

  • Take advantage of the learning platforms and resources available

  • Raise problems experienced when using the tool with the providers/developers (e.g. CameraForensics)

  • Don’t be afraid to open a dialogue with the providers/developers and provide feedback for improvements

Ultimately, we want to hear from our users in all industries and perspectives. This is our biggest asset, steering tangible development and improvement that directly benefits investigators’ everyday activity.

To talk to us about our platform or how we can better help you, get in touch.

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