The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has received a high-tech boost in its fight against online crime with the launch of an online tracking system today.
Launched at a media event at parliament house by Minister for Home Affairs, Bob Debus, the system has been developed by Microsoft.
Known as the Child Exploitation Tracking System (CETS), Microsoft has donated the software tool to the AFP.
The tool enables the AFP to work with law enforcement agencies throughout Australia and around the world, to share and track information relating to online child exploitation and abuse.
AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty said CETS will help increase the effectiveness of AFP investigations by enabling officers to store, search, analyse and link large quantities of evidence and match cases under investigation by Australian and international law enforcement agencies.
He said today's announcement will strengthen the AFPs global online presence in actively policing the Internet community.
The implementation of CETS by the AFP is the result of a recommendation put forward by the Australasian Police Child Protection Committee (APCPC), which consists of state, territory and New Zealand Police, along with CrimTrac and the Australian Crime Commission.
The AFP is working closely with the APCPC to implement CETS throughout Australia.
Microsoft senior vice president Brad Smith said law enforcement officials across the world have repeatedly told Microsoft that processing the massive amounts of evidence they come across is challenging.
"They accumulate thousands of images, thousands of e-mail messages and hundreds of Web site links, address books and contact lists," Smith said.
"With so much information and data to process, connecting the dots is a difficult job. Imagine trying to connect those dots across different cities, states, countries and law enforcement agencies - CETS was developed to tackle this very issue."
In addition to Australia, the system is now operating in eight countries, including Brazil, Canada, Chile, Indonesia, Italy, Romania, Spain and the United Kingdom.
In the United Kingdom, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre has credited CETS with helping to save 138 children from abuse, make 240 arrests and dismantle three international paedophile rings.
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) estimates that the production and distribution of child abuse images is valued at US$20 billion annually while the British-based Internet Watch Foundation believes the number of child abuse images on the Internet has grown by 1,500 percent since 1997.