Technology aims to identify online pedophiles by the way they type

By Calvin Palmer

Research being carried out in America by a professor at Newcastle University could track down pedophiles targeting children online by the way they use their computer keyboard.

Professor Roy Maxion’s research at Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, is investigating ways of determining the age, sex and culture of someone using a computer keyboard within 10 keystrokes by monitoring their speed and rhythm.

Former Northumbria Police detective chief inspector Phil Butler believes the technology could be useful in tracking down online fraudsters and pedophiles.

Butler, who heads Newcastle University’s Cybercrime and Computer Security department, said: “Roy’s research has the potential to be a fantastic tool to aid intelligence gathering for crime fighting agencies, in particular serious and organized crime and for those tracking down pedophiles.

“If children are talking to each other on Windows Live or MSN Messenger, we are looking at ways of providing the chat room moderators with the technology to be able to see whether an adult is on there by the way they type.”

Butler said the technology could also be used to prevent convicted sex offenders committing further crimes.

He said: “As part of a sexual offences prevention order, courts currently have the power to ban a sex offender from using a computer.

“With this technology the courts could force the offender to provide an example of their typing as a way of ensuring they don’t use a computer.”

Newcastle University is planning to submit a proposal to the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to fund further research.

Butler said the technology could also be used to prevent fraud at devices such as cash machines.

“We’d like to look at various adaptations of the research for use in law enforcement, forensics and for companies trying to avoid fraud,” he said.

“We have also had interest from the private sector,” he added. “It is keen to see whether this technology can be used as an additional tool for identity verification, such as in online banking.”

[Based on reports by The Daily Telegraph and New York Daily News.]

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4 responses to “Technology aims to identify online pedophiles by the way they type

  1. OS

    I wish they’d spend as much time and thought and resources preventing my grandkids from getting knocked over on the road as they do trying to catch these billions of pedos from snaring them. Of course pedos are a danger, but it’s all getting out of balance now. Media driven of course. I’m not sure if other parents/grandparents are the same as me, but I worry far more about them crossing the road than using a computer.

    • calvininjax

      As ever, words of reason and common sense, OS.

      Yes, it is driven by the media and American paranoia, a sort of chicken and egg situation, and the paranoia then gets imported by the UK. What America does today, Britain does tomorrow. Since few children walk in the United States, road safety is not such an issue. Children, both here and in the UK, no longer enjoy the kind of freedoms we enjoyed in our younger days.

  2. Song

    Those dumb ass kids deserved being raped by pedophiles. No one forced them to give out their personal information. Thanks to naive kids like that, my mom thinks talking to strangers online is dangerous.. 😦 But I like it, because I am able to tell them my secrets I couldn’t tell people I know in real! She keeps saying, “YOU BETTER NOT HAVE A PEDOPHILE COME TO OUR HOUSE!” -__- Does she really think I’m that stupid?
    I’ve been talking online ever since I was nine and now I’m sixteen. I have yet to be raped by a pedophile! You don’t have to be careful or anything. You just have to keep your personal information secret.

    • FX

      [This might be a little late for Song; I have to admit that I’m a bit late into this convo. But it strikes a chord in me and maybe it will in others, too.]

      No one deserves being raped, Song. I’m sorry you got caught in the middle of a war between the unethical and the intolerant, but kids do get hurt -molested (or even killed)- by people to whom they have unwisely given their personal info. It would say a lot for your maturity if you showed compassion for the victims of child-rapists, rather than turning your anger at your mother (and the witch-hunt mentality which is not just making kids’ lives less enjoyable and open, but is rapidly circumscribing their liberties) on innocent kids. Being the victim of an adult who tricks and uses you, maybe physically forces you to do things for which you will feel shame and disgust, for his or her own selfish sexual whims is an awful thing to wish on any kid.

      That said, not all Minor-Attracted Adults (MAAs – that’s the nice word, or you could use CL, or BL & GL) are deficient in empathy; not all -or even most, IME- MAAs would or could selfishly blind themselves to a child’s suffering. In short, not all are “pedophiles” as portrayed by the media; that is a grim -and *usually* inaccurate- stereotype. Just b/c a man likes women does not make him a rapist. Many of us cherish those kids with whom we are privileged to be associated, and would defend our Young Friends against such people with our lives.

      Perhaps your anger would be better used constructively: you could organize or lobby for child liberation and/or liberty rights; I did when I was a teenager. Kids so rarely are given the respect they deserve… that is, the respect due any human being.


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