Project VIC is a collaborative effort between ICMEC, law enforcement and industry.
“Project VIC is allowing us to save time on our workflow, dramatically allowing us to focus on uncategorized images and limiting the amount of trauma we suffer from seeing images already identified.”Project VIC User
The goal is to increase information sharing among law enforcement worldwide, while identifying more victims, more rapidly. Project VIC does this by improving – and standardizing – the technology resources available to law enforcement who review images of child sexual exploitation.
Why is Project VIC important?
The proliferation of child pornography on the Internet has created an enormous challenge for law enforcement personnel who seek to identify and rescue victims, and to investigate and prosecute offenders. The number of images seized by law enforcement around the world, both still and video, is staggering. Individual offenders possess massive collections of up to terabytes or even petabytes of data. When tens of thousands of images of child abuse material are seized by law enforcement, many of the photos or videos are destined to be left on hard drives and in police station evidence lockers.
Traditional forensic workflows combined with sentencing guidelines and the sheer volume of offenders has created an epidemic and an environment where child victims are undetected and undiscovered, and the crimes committed against them are never investigated. The failure of this detection enables the continued access to and abuse of these children.
In the vast amount of material that is not reviewed, there are victims of abuse who are not identified, rescued and supported. Out of that dilemma comes Project VIC’s philosophy: Victims First – No Child Left Behind.
What exactly does Project VIC do?
First, Project VIC compiled all existing online child abuse images into a single repository. Each image, whether still or video, has a unique identifier known as a “hash value.” Using the hash value allows investigators to quickly rule images in or out of their searches. Project VIC participants have organized and compiled detailed lists of their own image collections using these hash values.
Project VIC also commissioned the creation of an “image hash cloud,” which is available to investigators around the world. They download the “master image hash lists,” which contain the identifiers of highly vetted, known images of child sexual exploitation. Law enforcement personnel also are able to expand the database by uploading new hashes they have seized.
To make the image hash cloud effective, all involved need to have the ability to contribute back. Project VIC protocols allow for this because the technology is governed by OASIS, the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards. This ensures that technology tool providers can adopt – and their data will be compatible with – the Project VIC ecosystem of technology tools.
What has Project VIC accomplished to date?
There are thousands of Project VIC users in the United States and 25 companion countries. Recent survey results from a sample of users reported over 250 victims have been identified and over 125 offenders identified as a direct result of Project VIC participation.
Project VIC has built a library of over 5 million unique images of child pornography, including stills and video. Through processing and categorization of the images, there now are more than 2 million quality-controlled hash values available to law enforcement.
What is in store for Project VIC?
In the fall of 2015 Project VIC launched a new initiative, Project VIC-International, to promote and grow the information sharing of Project VIC data and innovations.
Project VIC has already started work on a bridge to major data sources at INTERPOL and Europol. Other countries have adopted the Project VIC model of information sharing, and victim centric approach to investigations including the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.
What is ICMEC’s role?
We serve as the Administrative Coordinator and International Outreach Coordinator for Project VIC. To that end, we:
- Coordinate domestic and international outreach and expansion efforts;
- Vet countries/foreign entities for possible participation in Project VIC;
- Coach and mentor countries early on regarding Project VIC through roundtable discussions and assessments;
- Deploy hands-on trainings to introduce investigators to Project VIC and the workflow of tools used to combat child exploitation;
- Assist with developing custom and individual Project VIC strategic plans for interested countries;
- Facilitate the donation of Project VIC technology tools; and
- Convene an International Technology Summit with all Project VIC participants to gather international requirements and innovation ideas.