TORONTO — In January 2003, a Toronto Police detective sent an e-mail to Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates asking for help in the fight against child exploitation.
Today that plea was answered with the official launch of the Child Exploitation Tracking System (CETS). Development of the CETS system began in 2003 and involved the Toronto Police Service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other global law enforcement bodies.
CETS is a Microsoft-developed, security-enhanced database that works with existing offender tracking systems in various global jurisdictions to allow investigators to tap into the data and make connections that help them more effectively track, locate and ultimately arrest offenders.
CETS is based on Microsoft Windows and Microsoft SQL, though according to Microsoft Canada President David Hemler the system won’t force authorities to migrate to Windows and/or other Microsoft products.
“The system was designed to be able to integrate with the offender management systems around the world,” Hemler explained in a morning press conference. “We didn’t want them to have to migrate off those systems. A lot of design went into the interoperability and open standard of this.”
Police services are able to tap into the CETS system via an Internet portal over a secure connection. The system has been in active beta testing since at least October 2004, and the Toronto Police Service together with the RCMP claim it has helped in the arrest of at least four alleged criminals.
CETS was rolled out in Canada but has not yet seen time in the U.S., though the goal is to roll the system out globally. Hemler and RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli stressed that collaboration with the DHS was a critical aspect of the development of CETS.
“One of the key design point we had is that we had great collaboration from the department of Homeland Security early on in our process up here to give us input into how they could use and how they might use it and how it might be applicable in the U.S.,” Hemler said. “We’re actively working with law enforcement agencies within the U.S. to take what we’ve learned with CETS and make it available there.”
To date, Microsoft has donated the software and services behind CETS to the Toronto Police Service and Canadian authorities. Microsoft has also pledged to continue to support it both locally and on a global basis making it available for free to authorities that want to use the service.
“We’ve given away all of our software and service in the development of CETS, roughly $2.5 million to date; we’ve additionally committed $2 million around this project office to ensure that deployment within Canada and on a global basis continues and we’re committed to give this software away to any police or law enforcement organizations on a worldwide basis that want it,” Hemler said.
Microsoft will not directly be making any money from the CETS initiative; rather it is seen as part of the software giant’s commitment to being a good citizen.
“There is no additional revenue for Microsoft,” Hemler said. “What’s in it for Microsoft is a safer Internet upon which we all live and work, which is a huge aspect of what we believe is important in society.
“Frankly it amounts to doing the right thing.”