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It seems a little strange to have the words "Facebook" and "privacy" in the same sentence in one of my blogs, yet it seems that Facebook CTO Bret Taylor testified at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on mobile phone and internet privacy.
But it turns out the story is about rather more than privacy: it's about using PhotoDNA technology to scan for child pornography and pictures of missing children. Which makes sense for a network that's used by an awful lot of people to share photos.
Blogs by Ernie Allen of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and Bill Harmon of Microsoft 's Digital Crimes Unit seem to indicate that Microsoft's PhotoDNA has already made an enormous difference on this particular battlefield. In the course of its work, NCMEC has analysed nearly 49 million examples of child-abusive photos and videos since 2002, and Microsoft's donation of the software in 2009 has clearly had an impact: 13 million of those images were reviewed in 2010 alone. Microsoft has evaluated 2 billion images on its own services with very significant success. Facebook users exchange 30 billion items (photos, blogs, links etc.) per month, so I expect the company's participation to make further, dramatic inroads into the problem.
Cheap shots notwithstanding, I'm not about to get indignant about the rights to privacy of the child abuse rings who are reported to misuse the service, and this one occasion where I wouldn't hate seeing other service providers follow Facebook's lead.
David Harley CITP FBCS CISSP
ESET Senior Research Fellow
Author David Harley, ESET