Short Eyes Beware

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Canadian law enforcement authorities and Microsoft Corp. yesterday unveiled a new computer system originally sparked by an e-mail to Bill Gates from a Toronto Police Service detective frustrated by the ability of child pornographers to cloak themselves in technology.

The Child Exploitation Tracking System, already used by some police services in Canada, is designed to gather and analyze data collected in child-pornography investigations around the world. Authorities say the software helps police investigators uncover important connections that might otherwise escape attention.

Microsoft, which has committed about $4 million to the effort thus far, is offering the system free to law enforcement agencies around the world. Executives say they hope to see it adopted on a large scale.

They say it already has proved useful in certain situations.

For example, the system was credited with helping Toronto police investigators identify a man who was arrested last fall on charges of taking and distributing lewd photos of a 4-year-old girl. The system also helped them find the victim.

All told, based on links identified by the system, authorities in Toronto have arrested five people alleged to have traded in or shared child pornography, including two alleged to have been directly involved in abusing children, Gillespie said.

The system was built on Microsoft technologies including SQL Server database software and SharePoint Portal Server. However, Microsoft said the system uses open standards, such as the XML format for data exchange, letting it work with non-Microsoft technologies and systems.

Officials said that strategy will help the Child Exploitation Tracking System work with existing databases of related information.

During yesterday's news conference, Microsoft Canada's Hemler was asked about the financial motivation for taking part in the project. He pointed out that the company is donating money and services to the project and offering its software for free.

"There is no additional revenue in this for Microsoft," he said. "Frankly, it amounts to doing the right thing -- good corporate citizenship."


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