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System Scans Internet For Illegal Images

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Researchers at the University of Twente have come up with a system to scan Internet traffic for illegal photographs. A statement from the university says the system could prove helpful in tracking child pornography.

Despite the apparent intentions of the project, a system that scans Internet traffic for illegal photographs might be construed as an intrusion of privacy by many. But the research team behind the project promise that privacy of the owner of the photographs will remain secure. Apparently, the system lets the police only see the number of illegal photographs on the internet and not the actual photographs themselves.

Standard police databases do not contain any truly illegal photographs, the researchers explain, but just features of these photographs expressed in numbers, which are otherwise know as hash values. So when the police seize computers or USB sticks, the database is employed to compare known hash values with those of the photographs on the devices. But, for security reasons, these databases cannot be used to scan the Internet. What's required, then, is an encryption system, and this is precisely the gap that the new system wants to bridge.

The press release from University of Twente, Netherlands, says the system can also be used by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to scan their networks. Currently, the university is in talks with companies interested in the system, which is a part of Christoph Bösch' doctoral research.


However, the researchers are uncertain how exactly the system will be seen under current Dutch legislation. That are waiting for verification from a legal point of view.

by RTT Staff Writer

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