top of page
Online Education

The Role of INTERPOL in Creating a Safer Internet for Children

“Being safe online means taking proactive measures to protect oneself and one’s personal information on the internet.”

-Veaceslav Balan, Project Manager at INTERPOL’s Organised & Emerging Crime Directorate

The Role of INTERPOL in Creating a Safer Internet for Children

In today's digital age, the internet is an integral part of children's lives, offering vast opportunities for learning and social interaction. However, alongside these benefits come significant risks, including the threat of sexual exploitation and abuse. Recognising this, INTERPOL stands at the forefront of protecting children online, employing innovative strategies to enhance their safety. Through initiatives like victim identification and prevention of child abuse material, INTERPOL is committed to combatting these threats. One pivotal aspect of their work is the DevOps Group, funded by Safe Online, which focuses on developing tools to counter online child sexual exploitation. This group bridges technology and law enforcement, creating practical solutions tailored to real-world investigations. By leveraging technology and collaboration, INTERPOL and Safe Online are ensuring a safer digital future for children worldwide.

Leveraging Technology and Innovation

The INTERPOL DevOps Group is a part of the organisation's Crimes Against Children Unit - which promotes the sharing of best practices and innovative strategies among various stakeholders, including law enforcement, NGOs, and academic institutions. The DevOps Group serves as a critical junction between technological innovation and law enforcement operations. Thanks to funding from Safe Online, this group was able to launch with a specific focus on developing tools and technologies to counter online child sexual exploitation.

Veaceslav Balan, the Project Manager for INTERPOL's Organised & Emerging Crime Directorate, emphasises the unique function of this group: "This project brought together developers and operational officers to co-create tools that enhance our capabilities to combat online child sexual exploitation." The integration of developers (who are skilled in the latest technologies and programming) with operational officers (who bring firsthand experience of law enforcement needs and challenges) enables the DevOps Group to tailor technological solutions that are practical and directly applicable to real-world investigations.

The DevOps Group engages in several key activities to combat online child sexual exploitation. Firstly, they focus on developing new technologies, creating tools and software designed to identify and track digital footprints left by perpetrators online. These technologies include sophisticated algorithms and systems capable of sifting through vast amounts of data to pinpoint potential exploitation material.

Additionally, the group works on proofs-of-concept, exploring innovative approaches to tackling child exploitation through building and testing prototypes. These proofs-of-concept are essential for demonstrating the viability of new technologies before they are fully developed and deployed in real-world situations. In addition to regular DevOps Group Meetings, the first mini-DevOps hackathon took place in May 2023 at INTERPOL headquarters in France. During the 5-day hackathon, participants worked on few technical challenges aiming to create new or revamped tools, AI models, and applications to support law enforcement units in the global fight against child abuse. As a result of this hackathon, few solutions have been created in relation to geolocation, identification, and self-generated media.

Furthermore, the DevOps Group serves as a platform for sharing ideas and best practices, both within INTERPOL and with external partners such as other law enforcement agencies, NGOs, and academia. This collaborative approach facilitates the exchange of knowledge and expertise, leading to more effective solutions in combating online child sexual exploitation.

Lastly, the group plays a crucial role in networking and providing support to specialists involved in ongoing investigations. By building a network of experts, they enable coordination of responses to international cases of child exploitation and facilitate the sharing of urgent alerts about new threats in the digital landscape.

By focusing on these areas, the DevOps Group aims to stay ahead of rapidly evolving technology and the equally fast-moving tactics used by offenders. This proactive and innovative approach is vital in the global fight against online child sexual exploitation, aiming not just to respond to crimes but to prevent them wherever possible.

Fostering a Safer Digital Environment: Advocating for Global Collaboration and Parental Engagement

Creating a safer digital environment requires global cooperation and continuous innovation, as emphasised by Balan. He advocates for strong international collaboration and updated legislation tailored to the evolving nature of online child exploitation crimes. "Service providers must prioritise child safety in their product designs, and there must be an emphasis on public awareness and education," he states. This approach also aligns with INTERPOL's advocacy for an open dialogue between children and their guardians about online activities. According to Balan, "Parents should engage in their children's digital world, discussing the nuances of 'good' and 'bad' content and encouraging them to be mindful of their online interactions."

A Collaborative Endeavour by INTERPOL and Safe Online

In today's digital world, protecting children online is paramount. INTERPOL, alongside Safe Online, leads the charge with innovative strategies to combat online threats and foster a safe environment for children to learn and explore.

INTERPOL's comprehensive initiatives tackle online exploitation head-on, from identifying victims to building global partnerships. Supported by Safe Online's funding, the DevOps Group exemplifies this commitment, empowering law enforcement with cutting-edge tools.

Safe Online's partnership with INTERPOL amplifies the impact of both organisations, enabling the expansion of initiatives and the development of new technologies. Together, they effectively address evolving challenges, ensuring a safer digital future for children worldwide. This effective alliance between INTERPOL and Safe Online paves the way for children to thrive online, equipped with the necessary tools and protections.

bottom of page