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PhotoDNA is a technology developed by Microsoft that computes hash values of images in order to identify alike images.[1] It is used with Microsoft's own services Bing and OneDrive,[2] as well as by Google Gmail, Twitter,[3] Facebook [4] and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children,[5] to whom Microsoft donated the technology. In December 2014, Microsoft also made PhotoDNA available to qualified organizations as a free cloud service through the Azure Marketplace.[6]

Microsoft donated the PhotoDNA technology to Project Vic, managed and supported by the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC). Project Vic is an image and video hash-sharing initiative that streamlines investigative workflows and narrows the focus of child pornography law enforcement investigations by filtering the material investigators find on offenders’ computers.[7][8][9][10] Project Vic uses the technology to create a "fingerprint" that can be used to uniquely identify an individual photo.[7][10][11] Using robust hash sets, the technology allows law enforcement to determine which images retrieved have already been identified, and are part of the Project's database of millions of digital hashes of child porn, enabling detectives to focus on those that are new children waiting to be located and recovered.[9][12] The technology also assists online service providers, by helping them detect child sexual abuse images shared on their sites, and block their continued dissemination.[13][11][14]

PhotoDNA is primarily used in the prevention of child pornography, and works by computing a hash that represents an image. This hash is computed such that it is resistant to alterations in the image, including resizing and minor color alterations.[1] It works by converting the image to black and white, re-sizing it, breaking it into a grid, and looking at intensity gradients or edges.[15]


  1. ^ a b "PhotoDNA at a Glance". Retrieved July 22, 2013. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ Arthur, Charles (July 22, 2013). "Twitter to introduce PhotoDNA system to block child abuse images". The Guardian. Retrieved July 22, 2013. 
  4. ^ Smith, Catharine (May 2, 2011). "Facebook Adopts Microsoft PhotoDNA To Remove Child Pornography". Huffington Post. Retrieved July 22, 2013. 
  5. ^ Salcito, Anthony (December 17, 2009). "Microsoft donates PhotoDNA technology to make the Internet safer for kids". Retrieved July 22, 2013. 
  6. ^ "PhotoDNA Cloud Service". Retrieved February 19, 2015. 
  7. ^ a b "New Video Fingerprinting Technology Created to Remove Child Pornography Online". MarketWatch. April 30, 2014. 
  8. ^ William Jackson (August 27, 2014). "Improved image analysis tools speed exploited children cases". GCN. 
  9. ^ a b "New Fingerprinting Technology to Remove Child Pornography Online", Friend Media Technology Systems
  10. ^ a b Liat Clark (April 30, 2014). "Child abuse-tracking tech donated to the world". Wired UK. 
  11. ^ a b "Microsoft’s response to the consultation on the European Commission Communication on the Rights of the Child (2011–2014)", European Commission
  12. ^ Mark Ward (March 23, 2014). "Cloud-based archive tool to help catch child abusers". BBC News. 
  13. ^ Dr. Reinhard Eher, Leam A. Craig, Michael H. Miner, Friedemann Pfäfflin (2011). International Perspectives on the Assessment and Treatment of Sexual Offenders: Theory, Practice and Research. John Wiley & Sons. p. 514. ISBN 1119996201. 
  14. ^ Marcia Lattanzi-Licht, Kenneth Doka (2004). Living with Grief: Coping with Public Tragedy. Routledge. p. 317. ISBN 1135941513. 
  15. ^ "Photo DNA: Step by step". Microsoft. Retrieved February 11, 2014.