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Microsoft tip ends in arrest of alleged child porn hustler

by Sadie McRae (2020-07-30)

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Microsoft's Digital Crimes Unit Forensics Lab. Pradeep Viswanathan/Microsoft

Google isn't the only company scanning the Web for potential child predators -- Microsoft is also doing some online tracking.

A tip from Microsoft led to the arrest of a Pennsylvania man who was allegedly sharing and receiving child pornography images, according to the BBC. The man, who was in his twenties, allegedly saved one image of a young girl on his OneDrive cloud storage account and later allegedly tried to send two photos with a Microsoft email address.

Microsoft wasn't actively looking at the man's accounts, instead it was able to tell he was allegedly dealing in child pornography because the images had a unique identification code that the company's computers recognized as child exploitation. Rather than alerting the police directly, Microsoft sent its report to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's Cyber Tipline.

"Child pornography violates the law as well as our terms of service, which makes clear that we use automated technologies to detect abusive behavior that may harm our customers or others," a Microsoft spokesperson told CNET.

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The company's terms and conditions say that it has the right to "deploy automated technologies to detect child pornography or abusive behavior that might harm the system, our customers, or others."

Microsoft has been involved in developing unique identification codes -- what it calls PhotoDNA -- since 2009. This technology was created to stop the spread of exploitative images of children. It works by making a unique signature for every known child pornography image -- computers are then able to recognize the signatures and locate, block, and report all duplicate images on the Web.

Google, Facebook, and Twitter also use PhotoDNA to detect images depicting child exploitation. On Sunday, it was reported that a Google tip also led to the arrest of a man who allegedly had child pornography images in his email.

The Pennsylvania man is in a county correctional facility and is scheduled for a preliminary court appearance next week.


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