TORONTO — April 7, 2005 — Microsoft Corp. joined international law enforcement agencies today to unveil an unprecedented computer system that allows global police agencies to share information for tracking online child predators.
The Child Exploitation Tracking System (CETS) was developed by Microsoft Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Toronto Police Service following a personal e-mail plea from Toronto Police Detective Sergeant Paul Gillespie to Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates in January 2003.
The new tracking system has already resulted in the November 2004 arrest of one alleged Toronto child pornographer. He was identified and targeted during beta testing of the computerized database and investigation system.
The system was unveiled at a press conference today by RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli and Microsoft Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Nancy Anderson.
Microsoft Canada President David Hemler honored Gillespie Wednesday night for sparking collaboration with the police agencies by presenting him with a plaque engraved with the original e-mail plea he sent to Gates.
“Criminals are using the Internet at an unprecedented rate to exploit the most vulnerable of our society: our children,” said the Honourable Anne McLellan, Canadian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. “I commend Canadian law enforcement and Microsoft Canada for their vision and leadership in creating a tool unlike any other in the world that will help keep our children safe from online predators.”
When the initiative began in 2003, Microsoft technicians worked closely with Canadian law enforcement to custom-design the software that allows police to speak to each other in real time across cities and countries. At the launch today, Anderson reinforced Microsoft’s commitment, bringing its total investment to more than $4 million (U.S.) to date for the system’s development and worldwide integration.
Many police agencies in Canada have already integrated CETS into their systems. As part of today’s event, Hemler also announced the creation of a Canadian project office that will assist in the ongoing deployment of CETS.
“CETS is a true example of integration among law enforcement and industry,” Zaccardelli said. “Taking this kind of integrated approach allows each player to bring their expertise and contribution to the table, producing a more effective response to these heinous crimes. We are now equipped with the tools to better protect children in Canada and around the world from online predators.”
“We at Microsoft want to thank law enforcement agencies in Canada, and around the world for their efforts to counter online threats to children,” Anderson said. “We’re honored to collaborate on the technology for this effort. Together, we’re determined to make the Internet safer for everyone.”
“Prior to CETS, police forces were manually sorting through files and photos, making it almost impossible to share information,” said Toronto Police Service Chief Designate William Blair. “CETS is shifting the power of the Internet out of the hands of the predators and back to the police. In fact, we’ve already been successful in identifying one victim with CETS during the beta testing phase.”
Online child exploitation is a serious worldwide problem. According to Ernie Allen, president and CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) and the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children, more than 300,000 reports of child sexual exploitation were made to NCMEC’s CyberTipline (http://www.cybertipline.com) since 1998. In addition, a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice found that one in five children between the ages of 10 and 17 has received unwanted sexual solicitations online.
“Thanks to the generosity and leadership of Microsoft and the vision of the Toronto Police Service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, law enforcement across Canada and soon worldwide will employ a cutting-edge tool to address the epidemic of online child sexual exploitation,” Allen said. “We at the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children and our U.S.-based sister agency, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, applaud this historic innovation, and commit to work with Microsoft and our Canadian allies to expand CETS worldwide.”
In October, CETS beta testing linked information on computer systems at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to a separate investigation by the FBI, with information about a Toronto child pornographer. As a result, a 4-year-old girl was identified and rescued by Toronto police from the man who had allegedly photographed and assaulted her.
Anderson noted that Microsoft has a deep commitment to making the Internet safe and developing technological solutions to the emerging threats posed by criminals who exploit the medium.
CETS is a security-enhanced database that can run on a variety of computer systems and uses open standards to allow computer systems from different countries and with different technologies to communicate with one another.
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