Microsoft helps Indonesia fight child predators

Indonesia has joined forces with Microsoft Corp. to fight child predators, making it the first country in Asia to join a growing Internet collaboration.

Indonesia announced Wednesday it has adopted an online tracking system developed by Microsoft and several international police agencies, dubbed the Child Exploitation Tracking System (CETS). The software was developed using XML (Extensible Markup Language) and it runs on any system, including non-Windows OSes. It was designed for police agencies to share and analyze information about pedophiles and others who prey on children.

Using CETS to work together and share information brings a wide range of expertise to the table, “producing a more effective response to these heinous crimes. We are now equipped with tools to better protect children around the world from online predators,” said General Sutanto, chief of the Indonesian National Police, in a statement.

The software makes it easier for investigators to import, analyze, organize and share data through every part of an investigation, right through to the conviction of a child predator. It even enables them to search information from a point of detection on the Internet.

Indonesia becomes only the second country in the world, after Canada, to adopt the system. They’re tackling a growing problem: adults who prey on young children are increasingly using technology to find new victims. In fact, almost one in five young Internet users surveyed by the U.S. National Center for Missing & Exploited Children said they had received unwanted sexual solicitations online in the past year.

The problem extends to Web sites popular with young people, such as The Web site’s parent company appointed a new chief security officer in April, Hemanshu Nigam, to ensure the safety of young users of the site, after several high profile incidents involving sex offenders and young Myspace members.

Globally, some 1.2 million children are bought and sold each year, and many more are forced to work in the sex industry, according to UNICEF, the United Nations’ Children’s Fund. Some are forced into brothels, while others work in them to support their parents and siblings. In Hanoi, Vietnam, a child prostitute can earn US$1,000 per month, far higher than the average monthly salary of $25, UNICEF said.

Many nations, including Australia and the U.S., have laws prohibiting their citizens from having sex with children anywhere in the world.

Microsoft hopes more countries will use CETS and build up the global network.

“As you add countries and the information is shared, it becomes a more powerful tool. It breaks down borders,” said Kathy Bostick, a senior attorney at Microsoft. She said the company is working with several nations on adopting the system.

In addition, several countries are already actively promoting CETS. Indonesian police worked with the U.S. Department of Justice for six months to build their program, and some Indonesian officers also flew to Toronto to see how CETS was being used there. Australia is helping deploy the software in police departments throughout Indonesia.

It was a personal e-mail from a police sergeant in Toronto, Canada, to Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates in early 2003 that started CETS. The officer, Paul Gillespie, was concerned that pedophiles were moving faster than police to understand and use the Internet. They were building online communities, trading photos and sharing information. That e-mail led Microsoft to spend about $5 million to develop the software, with help and advice from international police agencies.

“Technology is enabling an increase in predators. It’s the responsibility of the community to come together and stop these guys,” Bostick said. “It’s about the kids.”

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