TORONTO — A system for tracking online child pornographers that began with a Canadian police officer’s e-mail plea to Microsoft chairman Bill Gates may eventually be adopted by law enforcement agencies around the world.

Officers from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the Toronto Police

Service and Microsoft Canada officially unveiled the Child Exploitation and Tracking System (CETS) earlier this month. The database, which was designed to assist police in tracking Internet predators and rescuing children, has already been successfully used in five Toronto-area investigations and has led to a number of arrests, officials said. Microsoft said it would complement its existing $2.5-million investment in the development of CETS with a $2-million donation that would create an office for supporting the system and training police to use it. CETS will be open to any law enforcement agency with a Child Exploitation division. They will access it via a Web-based app.

A plea for help

Toronto Police Service started working with Microsoft to develop CETS two years ago, after Det.-Sgt. Paul Gillespie of the force’s sex crimes unit sent a message to Gates asking for a system that would reduce the time it takes to sift through online child porn. Canadian police estimate there are more than 100,000 Web sites with child abuse images, and Toronto Police have seized more than two million pictures and videos.

CETS is not an image repository but a combination of database and case management system that will sift through officers’ notes, e-mail tips and other files to help police correlate leads on child pornographers. The system is based on Microsoft’s SQL Server for the database and analytics, while the Web-based interface uses elements borrowed from Microsoft’s SharePoint portal technology, according to Microsoft Canada CETS project lead Frank Battison. The system will require less than a day of training, he said.

“”It was a case of applying our .Net methodology to create a system that operates the way they operate,”” he said. “”We wanted something that was created by officers, for officers.””

RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli said CETS will be housed at the recently-opened National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre in Ottawa. Data fed into the system will be available to local police agencies.

Though a child porn tracking system is used by some agencies in Europe, CETS is the most sophisticated tool designed for this purpose so far, Zaccardelli said.

Former Toronto police chief Julian Fantino said several other agencies, including the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, have shown an interest in using CETS.

Battison said Microsoft knew there might be a need to integrate CETS with other, non-Windows systems, so it was developed based on Web services standards including Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP).

Fantino said the system would allow investigators to get through more material than they do today, and that staff would be dedicated to handle the manual input of some data. “”There might be a scene in a photograph showing abuse, and the system might be able to indicate other photographs that depict a similar scene,”” he said.

Share on LinkedIn Share with Google+