Images of runaway kids will be cross-checked
FACES of runaways and missing children could be cross-referenced against
a national database of child abuse images to find out if they are being
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) has used
facial recognition software to scan for some missing children in its
database of videos and pictures of abuse.
However, it is now considering expanding this to look for all runaways
and missing kids in the UK.
It could even search material after children have been reunited with
their families to ensure they didn't run away to escape abuse.
Martin Houghton-Brown, Chief Executive of charity Missing People, said
CEOP is already searching for "a significant number of children who have
been missing for over a year".
However, he wants the organisation to go further and check for all
"It's clear that some young people are targeted for sexual exploitation,
and the first indication of that can be that they're running away from
home," he said.
"One of the mediums that potential exploiters and abusers will use is
"There should be a national resource where pictures of missing children
can be cross-checked against online child abuse images.
"We need to be robust in the way that we prevent these incidents from
happening and investigate them, and CEOP's expertise would be valuable
in doing that."
Every year, 9000 children go missing in Scotland. The figure is closer
to 77,000 in the UK as a whole.
CEOP's database contains hundreds of thousands of photos and videos of
abuse that have been seized in child sex offender investigations.
Using facial recognition software to search the database for all
runaways and missing children could help save more youngsters and bring
their abusers to justice.
CEOP asked members of the public who were in Praia da Luz around the
time of Madeleine McCann's disappearance to send them images of their
The organisation said it wanted the images to "build a larger
However, a spokesman for Kate and Gerry McCann said he would not discuss
whether or not CEOP has searched its database for the little girl.
"CEOP has worked closely with the McCann's to assist the search for
Madeleine," he said.
"Kate and Gerry have been pleased with the work that CEOP has done on
their behalf over the last three and a half years.
"But they will not discuss, for operational reasons, any detail of
the technical work that has been carried out.
"Of course, Kate and Gerry would welcome anything and any development in
technology that would allow child sex offenders to be brought to
Charities are worried that Government proposals to merge CEOP within a
new National Crime Agency would scupper the organisation's facial
Former chief executive Jim Gamble, two senior managers and a group of
specialist Internet investigators have already quit CEOP over the
The Association of Chief Police Officers and Shadow Home Secretary Alan
Johnson have also said they want CEOP to remain a standalone body.