All UK police forces are now signed up to a revolutionary single secure database of indecent images of children.

The Child Abuse Image Database (CAID), launched by the Prime Minister and Home Secretary last December during the WePROTECT Children Online Summit in London, is transforming the way police forces and the National Crime Agency (NCA) tackle online child sexual exploitation (CSE).

Previously, a case with 10,000 images could typically take up to 3 days. Now, after matching images against CAID, a case like this can be reviewed in an hour, shifting the balance from reviewing images to identifying victims. In the first six months of this year alone, UK authorities identified over 185 victims of this abuse – already more than for the whole of any previous year.

CAID initially involved 7 police forces and over the last 12 months has been rolled out to all UK forces and the NCA.

Home Secretary Theresa May said:

Online child sexual exploitation is a complex crime and we must be innovative in the way we target these devious offenders who use the internet to prey on innocent children.

The fact that every UK police force has now signed up to the Child Abuse Image Database means more victims are now being identified than ever before; investigations are faster and more effective.

However, this fight cannot be won by the UK alone. It is a global crime and through WePROTECT; governments, NGOs, industry and law enforcement agencies are securing a safer future for children around the world.

At today’s WePROTECT summit in Abu Dhabi, Minister for Internet Safety and Security Baroness Joanna Shields said:

Child sexual abuse and exploitation is a global crime that requires a global response.

This is why in the UK, we are making sure our agencies have the technology, powers and capabilities they need to tackle the perpetrators of this horrendous crime, and to identify and protect the victims of sexual abuse.

The Child Abuse Image Database has underpinned work to deliver real improvements in how we tackle online child sexual exploitation, including taking less time to review images and allowing more time and resource to identify and protect victims.

At the first WePROTECT summit in 2014 the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) committed to working with technology companies to share hashes – digital ‘fingerprints’ – of indecent images of children.

Since then, almost 19,000 of these hashes – all of which originated from CAID – have been assessed by the IWF and shared with 5 major global technology companies, to enable the removal, and prevent the sharing, of potentially hundreds of thousands of images from their platforms and services. Industry have committed to build on this by continuing to work with UK law enforcement agencies and the IWF.

At this year’s WePROTECT summit countries will be committing to develop their own national responses to eliminate online CSE. There will also be an international pledge by countries, companies and civil society organisations to work together to coordinate sharing the digital ‘fingerprints’ of child abuse images globally. The Prime Minister will be holding international discussions next year to take this forward.

Other law enforcement and country achievements since last year’s summit include:

  • the establishment of a joint initiative between the NCA and the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) to track down those involved in the production or sharing of indecent images of children
  • 48 countries have now established links to the INTERPOL international child sexual exploitation (ICSE) database; the Interpol database shares data worldwide on victims, abusers and places to help police worldwide to identify victims and pursue offenders
  • the UK, with the agreement of the US and EU Commission, will be consulting on a merger between WePROTECT and the Global Alliance Against Child Sexual Abuse Online to create a global movement to drive progress and combat online CSE
  • the NCA investing £10 million from the UK government to recruit additional officers to tackle the most serious online offenders

At last year’s summit the Prime Minister pledged £50 million over five years – a world-leading commitment – to tackle violence against children globally.

The first £10 million of the fund is being used to finance UNICEF’s global program to tackle online CSE in 17 countries across 6 regions.

In the first five months this work includes:

  • working to build the capability of Guatemala’s Cybercrime Unit which has investigated cases of online CSE, and dismantled 2 online exploitation networks
  • the establishing of a new police unit in Jordan to investigate online crimes against children which is being strengthened by a programme to equip law enforcement officers with online investigatory knowledge and skills
  • undertaking a national study on child online protection in the Philippines
  • assisting with the review of the new draft Law for Cyber Security in Albania, which will ensure that children are protected to international standards