Facebook feature will check photos for child abuse

We’ve been bashing facebook lately with the whole PR attack on Google, and the all so classic ‘security’ issues. But for once facebook seems to be doing something right. While this is a minor “privacy” issue, it can potentially be a very good feature. Facebook is adding a new feature to it’s service, it will crawl through all of your photos using a sophisticated program that will detect Child Abuse, this is a new effort to drive pedophiles away from the site and make facebook a safer, user friendly website.

The program is called ‘PhotoDNA’, and it’s a system built by Microsoft, not very surprising since Microsoft own a good chunk of Facebook shares. The system is is actually connected to NCMEC, which is the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, it’s based in Virginia.

NCMEC collected over 10,000 images from local and national law enforcement units of children being abused, they put up the images as “samples” for the PhotoDNA, they have millions more on file to continue to add to the program as the system runs through facebook.

The way that the system works, is once an image is uploaded into the database, the computers will divide the database images into small sections and then assign a digital fingerprint, for each of the tiny sections. Once the small sections are given a “fingerprint”, the system will be uploaded to facebook where it will begin to look at your pictures looking for the “fingerprint” in other images, It will be more like a “compare these to images and tell me if they look alike” kind of program.

Bill Harmon, is a lawyer for Microsoft’s digital crimes unit, stated that PhotoDNA is so accurate that it detects child pornography with “zero false positives” he added that “Some images become ‘popular’ and are used time and time again – making good targets for the PhotoDNA program,” So if an image is spotted on a site, and is marked as being “abusive” the image will be added to the database and added to facebook, if the image is found on facebook it will automatically send out the red flag. So this program is not looking for a specific image, it’s looking for images that have already been found, while this may not stop child abuse from happening, it can stop it’s distribution from happening. I’m sure that in the future PhotoDNA will be able to compare the images against “similarities” but right now it’s not that good yet, but it’s a hell of a lot better than what we have right now… a “report” button at the bottom of the page.

Microsoft already added this on their Bing image search engines and it has found millions of images from around the world. Hopefully with the new addition to the facebook network we’ll detect the millions of pedophiles that migrated from myspace to facebook during the myspace boom. Check out the video below to see how PhotoDNA works.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pFMV8rl_2Y]