Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 220 - 239)



  Q220  Earl of Erroll: Can I just say this was not an attack on the police or the police involved or you yourself at all. It is perfectly possible, given the technology involved and the complexity of the way some things would be accessed, that mistakes can be made, particularly as this was a new area for many of the investigating police so therefore it is quite possible that these things could have happened. A very quick question then, there was no other sort of pornography on that website, it is purely child pornography? I have never visited it so I do not know.

  Mr Gamble: I am glad because we would have met under other circumstances perhaps! Let me be very clear here. Without going into too much technical detail, which I think would be unhelpful, was there ever a doubt about a particular aspect of a particular part of Landslide? Yes. Were they ever pursued or prosecuted? No. So where we identified in that investigation a doubt we then took action to make sure that those individuals were removed from that cloud of suspicion. The difficulty here is we understand, and we understood at the time, you cannot make this allegation and then withdraw it easily and put somebody's life back together. We understand that and that is why there is a lot of due diligence and that is why it takes a lot of time.

  Q221  Earl of Erroll: Is there possibly going to be a problem with the amount of credit card theft—identity theft as people have re-named it—that is going on at the moment? Is that going to be an increasing problem in future investigations firstly making sure that the credit card details were not stolen?

  Mr Gamble: We never prosecute someone simply on the basis of their credit card being used. You are going to look at all of the circumstantial evidence which when taken together provides overwhelming evidence. No, I do not think so and I also think that the pay-per-view industry is moving away from the simple credit card transaction. We are looking at other mechanisms whereby they can hide the activity they are involved in. So I do not think that that will be a problem in the future.

  Q222  Lord Mitchell: I was interested in your view on the emerging threats to child safety, for instance as a result of the extension of connectivity to an ever-wider range of devices. By that I am sure we mean mobile phones, wi-fi connected iPods, devices like that.

  Mr Gamble: It does not matter what the technology is. We need to move away from looking at the apparatus that actually delivers it, whether it is the mobile phone that is the brick or the new one that you can listen to your music on and also get onto the Internet and check the football scores with. What this is about is the threat that will emerge which is one of ignorance and perhaps arrogance on behalf of the Police Service and others in positions of responsibility where we assume that we have done enough and where we assume that children know enough. I go back to what I said before, I believe the best way of dealing with the emerging threat is through education. It is through engaging with children and actually listening to them. The youth panel work that we are doing, listening to academia, listening to young people about the way they occupy this new space and capitalise upon it in a way that helps them identify what the risks are and helps them contribute to the solution. 30 per cent of the reports we receive in the Centre are not about the technologies themselves and are not about something that industry creates; they are actually about the way children behave in that particular environment where they are given scope. It is about some of the self-generated content that they will share with others, and that is about education. That is about what you talked about earlier, talking to parents. A parent may not understand what a social networking site is. A social networking site is a fantastic place for young people to keep in touch when they go to university with their friends at home and elsewhere. Some criminal element will try and take advantage of it. I ask you this and I say this to parents: would you allow your child to wear a billboard or sandwich board, or whatever you want to call it, with their home telephone number, all of their personal details on it, and some handout photographs that they would walk from Victoria Station down to Oxford Street with whilst every Tom, Dick and Harry in the street could see them? You would not. That is about educating people and simplifying and demystifying the aspects of technology that we tend to lean towards in these debates.

  Q223  Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan: You mention that because of international co-operation you can now have 24/7 sharing of a lot of the monitoring. How much further do you think you need to go in this area of international co-operation?

  Mr Gamble: We need to build on the Virtual Global Task Force partnership because one of the questions about the numbers involved means that the long arm is able to be that much longer. I can say, without divulging too much, that we are currently investigating hundreds of suspects in on-line environments at present who are trying to access children because of that partnership. I believe Italy will be full members within a short period of time. We are working through the G8 initiative and those infrastructures that are already available to see how we can expand. The key in the next phase of development is going to be engaging countries that are not as technologically advanced as we and some of our partners are and recognising that what we see here are symptoms of crimes, and the root cause sometimes in their jurisdictions, and we need to support them build an infrastructure that means they can play a full part.

  Q224  Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan: Are you getting the co-operation from all of the countries that are as technically advanced as we are? Are other countries within, say, the EU that have fairly sophisticated IT environments all playing their part or are there still some people who perhaps are not as conscious of the nature of the problem?

  Mr Gamble: I think there are some places that are not as conscious but everybody plays a part in protecting their own children. I have been involved in my career in many types of crime ranging from terrorism to organised criminality and I have not been involved in any area where you get such a degree of enthusiasm and willingness by agencies, voluntary and government, in jurisdictions because protecting children is something that everybody can relate to. We do need to get better at it and some individual states need to recognise that they cannot protect their own children within their own geographic boundaries. The partnership needs to rise above that.

  Q225  Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan: If you think about it, the creation of CEOP is in itself a recognition that this is a particular type of crime, but is there still a danger or are we still in the position where this form of crime is seen as part of the general e-crime agenda?

  Mr Gamble: I think there is a danger that it is seen as part of that and we would not want it to be perceived as such. I think the label e-crime is unhelpful. E-crime should relate to those new crimes which are truly facilitated by the technology—the phishing and those types of attacks that you will see perhaps. From my point of view, and I was previously the Deputy Director-General of the National Crime Squad and I have some experience with the build of the National High-Tech Crime Centre, the Child Exploitation and On-line Protection Centre is about protecting children, it is not about the technology. The technology assists us and we use it to positive effect but I would not want the work that we do to be seen as e-crime.

  Q226  Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan: In the international context does that position prevail as well? What you said holds good for the UK but is it the case across the forces with whom you are in most close contact?

  Mr Gamble: No, it is not the case. In some areas I think they are moving to that more holistic approach. We have had visits from other jurisdictions from some other parliaments to look at the UK experiment with CEOP and that has been extremely positive. Our colleagues in America through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children again are focusing on the child aspect and bringing technology to bear as a constructive tool, but no, it is not recognised, and one of the problems with technology is everybody always defaults to it. The technology itself is not relevant. It is like trying to place a certain crime in a particular geography. It is about how we capitalise on the techniques that allow us to protect our children because very often technology will be used to lure a child from the virtual world into the real world and if you divide the way you deal with that then you undermine the activity.

  Q227  Lord Howie of Troon: You mentioned the United States a moment ago. We are told that more than half of child abuse image websites are hosted in the United States. What is being done about that over there?

  Mr Wright: I think it is fair to say that despite best efforts and the sophisticated tracing techniques used by the IWF it is not always possible to be categoric about where a site is hosted. A lot of websites, particularly the commercial ones, move frequently between jurisdictions as part of their efforts to avoid disruption or detection. This is a subject that the UK Government and agencies continue to raise with other governments, including the US, for example, through the G8 where justice and home affairs ministers gave a commitment to redoubling our efforts to combat the availability of these images. It is always difficult to judge other countries' approaches but the US Government over the last few years is attaching increasing priority to this issue. Nearly a year ago it launched its Project Safe Childhood to enhanced its national response to "combat the proliferation of technology-facilitated sexual exploitation crimes against children". The project brings together federal resources, NGOs, and state and local law enforcement through a national network of Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces with additional federal funding. The project includes integrated federal, state, and local efforts to investigate against individual people exploiting children, better community awareness, better education and better training for law enforcement and has led to every law enforcement agency developing significant operation initiatives against child exploitation. The US House of Representatives' Committee on Energy and Commerce conducted recently a hearing on "Making the Internet safe for kids: the role of ISPs and social networking sites", which has looked in detail at the hosting of images in the US and taken evidence from ISPs and NCMEC about this issue. Additionally, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has begun sharing the signatures of known child protection images with ISPs so those ISPs can start to eliminate the individual images from their systems. In summary, a lot of images are still hosted in the US but we are starting to see from the US Government a different and a much stronger approach to attacking it.

  Q228  Lord Howie of Troon: Our Government presumably is encouraging the United States to deal with this?

  Mr Wright: Absolutely. I have seen it on a number of occasions. It is diplomacy and you can only encourage but we have been encouraging them for longer than I have been in this job and we are starting to see action on the ground.

  Q229  Lord Howie of Troon: How long have you been in the job?

  Mr Wright: I have been in this job for nearly five years.

  Q230  Lord Howie of Troon: Are there any other blackspots apart from the United States?

  Mr Wright: In terms of hosting of images, it moves around quite a lot. Russia sometimes and increasingly Japan and Spain now are part of the problem, but I think there is a danger in focusing too much on in which country the server is where the images are because it is trivial to host any form of website in any country around the world, and moving it is $30 and half an hour's work. These sites will always be moved to the places where they think it is the safest for them, where the ISPs will provide less information to law enforcement, so even if all four countries identified changed overnight, in terms of people accessing the images there would be no disruption because the images will all be hosted in four different countries. I think it is about building co-operation globally, it is about attacking the people behind the images, the companies putting the images up, and most people are not based in the countries in which the website is hosted. The other thing which we have done in the UK very strongly is looking with the ISPs at blocking access to images wherever in the world an image is hosted. The majority of large UK ISPs will now block access to images wherever they are hosted because while we have pretty much eradicated the hosting of these websites within the UK they were still as accessible to UK residents as they were before, so what the UK ISPs have done is said, "You tell us where these images are and we will block access to those images wherever in the world they are," so even if those four countries cleaned up their act and it is four different countries next week, people in the UK will find it harder to access those websites.

  Q231  Lord Howie of Troon: In records, does the style and taste of the images depend on the country from which they come?

  Mr Wright: No. I do not think there is a difference between the country from which the image comes and the country where it is hosted, but colleagues have more knowledge about the images.

  Mr Gamble: Let us be clear, to adopt a position whereby we were to suggest that the United States was in some way well behind everyone else would be fundamentally unfair. The vast majority of the Internet infrastructure is based in the US, so the key word here is that a majority of those sites will "appear" to be hosted in the US, and I think technically we need to be very careful what we say there, they will appear to be hosted in the US. Images will be the same. They will be horrific and that is why we in the UK are very positive about not using the term "child pornography". We do not believe that what we are talking about is child pornography. Pornography is something which, depending upon your moralistic view, may be legal or not. This is not about consenting adults performing an act for the gratification of a third party on payment. This is about children as young as weeks old, sometimes unfortunately even younger than that, up to their early teens where they are physically abused in the most horrible sense by adult males. One of the things I find most disturbing, and we see a lot of images to put this in context, is a young teenage girl in a video we currently are working on who talks as if she is a 40-year-old prostitute. That child has been so badly treated and so heavily indoctrinated into the darker side of producing these types of images that she now behaves in a way that you would imagine if you were looking at it for the first time, that she was somehow complicit, but she has been victimised over so many years. The US in many senses has led the field in some of the initiatives it has brought together, partnering with industry. When we built the Child Exploitation and On-Line Protection Centre, we looked at the model of the National Centre of Missing Exploited Children to see how they did what they did and how we could apply the best parts of that here in the UK. They are active partners, they are members of the Virtual Global Task Force. On Monday of next week, an agent from the Department of Homeland Security will begin in the Child Exploitation and On-Line Protection Centre here, a physical manifestation of that partnership. We work in close partnership with them and we are able to use the technology to make that partnership a day-to-day exchange of information.

  Q232  Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan: You mentioned what you thought would be desirable in incorporating Internet safety in the National Curriculum. The impression I got was, therefore, that it seems a somewhat patchy process at the moment. Is Internet safety covered in the school curriculum in any organised way and at what age do the signals start being sent, the warnings?

  Mr Wright: There is flexibility in the ICT programme of study to include teaching about Internet safety to pupils. Schools are encouraged to integrate e-safety messages across the curriculum and implement policies and safe practices on Internet use, and teachers are provided with the resources to reinforce responsible use of the Internet. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority have adapted ICT schemes of work and guidance to strengthen the message about Internet safety. DfES have worked with the QCA and Becta on developing resources and guidance for schools, for example, under the Internet Proficiency Scheme, and the `Signposts to Safety' publication provides advice on teaching Internet safety at Key Stage 3, which is 11- to 14-year-olds and Key Stage 4, which is 14- to 19-year-olds. The scheme is a specific way of developing safe and discriminating behaviours when using the Internet.

  Q233  Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan: So it does not start until the age of 11?

  Mr Wright: It can be taught earlier. It can be fitted into the curriculum there, but I do not think that it is taught at every school.

  Q234  Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan: At the moment you are saying it is taught through the medium of the subject ICT and it is not taught as children are learning to use computers, as they are, at primary school? It does not seem to be happening there. It may well be happening, but it is not happening in any organised way. Is that right?

  Mr Wright: It is taught as part of ICT, but it is up to individual schools and it is not taught across the board.

  Mr Gamble: It is not sufficiently well indoctrinated into the National Curriculum and it needs to be part of the personal, social and health education programme as integrated into everyday lessons about child safety. If it is dealt with as an isolated specialism, it will be delivered or not delivered and listened to or not listened to. We are working at the minute on a secondary programme which targets children between the ages of 11 and 12 and 15 and 16. Those are the ones that Ofcom say to us are most likely to have on-line access in their bedrooms or in private. That is this year, a school-year programme. The next one we are looking at, and we are working with all of the partners you would imagine here, is looking at how we engage primary education. Beverley Hughes visited the centre and we met with her officials and, as I said earlier, they are now actively seeking to employ a full-time member of the DfES to work within our education team so that we can further indoctrinate this in a sensible way.

  Q235  Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan: You have the target of reaching a million schoolchildren. It has been suggested to us by the children's charities that this is rather ambitious, hugely ambitious in fact. Given the resources at your disposal, are you confident that you will be able to achieve this figure?

  Mr Gamble: It is an ambitious target and we could never deliver it by and of ourselves. We are delivering it by cascading. We have trained 1,355 different teachers, school liaison officers, some librarians and some student teachers in other places and, just as an aside, I think student teachers are the people we need to be targeting most effectively in this area because they are tomorrow's generation of schoolteachers. Those 1,355 cascade that information out into schools, so a member of staff does not stand in every school, but those local police liaison or local safeguarding body personnel or others who have a relationship go out with the content which we have created and deliver it in the way we have trained them to, so do I think we will make it? Yes, I do. The way we are looking at it at the minute is that nearly 400,000 packs have been delivered to particular schools so far and we have until June, the end of the school year, and I believe yes, it is a big target, but our website is getting three million hits a month. We need to engage children in the right way and in fact if you could say it was banned, we would probably increase that to about 20 million hits a month.

  Q236  Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan: The National Education Network have said that they do not really like the idea of devolving broadband funding to schools because they think this would diminish the good work which has been done on security and standards by the regional broadband consortia and local authorities. What is your view on this? Should Whitehall be intervening in setting standards so that this potential gap is bridged?

  Mr Gamble: Well, we work with those consortia and I think that I have to give credit where credit is due and say they have done a great job in a number of areas and we have learnt a lot of lessons about that. I am not sure about the way forward in that regard at all. We need to speak to them, we need to engage with schools and it needs to be a collective discussion that makes sure that, by simply moving from one process with the broadband consortia to another, we do not undermine our ability to deliver a safer infrastructure because that is what might happen if it goes down to the individual school.

  Mr Wright: I cannot answer that. It is DfES policy.

  Q237  Chairman: We will have to cut it off there. Thank you very much for your answers. I think it is very interesting listening to you; it reinforces the view that, as you have said, technology is neutral and this is largely a social problem. It is almost ironic to me that the three-dimensional nature of a web means that we do not have fingerprints on images which probably made the old world easier, did it not?

  Mr Gamble: But we actually do have fingerprints.

  Q238  Chairman: But you really do not because you do not know where these images have come from in general and it is almost impossible to trace them back to the origin.

  Mr Gamble: We can. Through the child-based technology we have, we are able to take 750,000 images, run them through our computer and it will tell us if we know these images or if we do not know them. It will also give us the history of the images that we know. What that does is prevent us from having to spend valuable time in looking at old images so that we are not duplicating effort, so we can fingerprint the image insofar as we can identify it and re-identify it and it is that fingerprinting technology in the IWF.

  Q239  Chairman: That is not what I meant by "fingerprinting". What I meant was that each image would not contain a fingerprint from the person who had sent it originally.

  Mr Gamble: And where that does happen is in the more modern digital photography where we are able to get that information, but I accept entirely what you say. I wonder if I could just ask you to bear with me and let me make the four recommendations I wanted to make to you very quickly. The first one I would like to see this Committee ask is that child protection be a national policing priority in the National Policing Plan, and the fact that it is not is a significant problem and I do not know why it is not, but I think this Committee could perhaps bring some focus to that. The second one is that Internet safety be a requirement in the National Curriculum. The third one is that we have a requirement on local safeguarding boards to have designated posts with responsibility to co-ordinate Internet safety across children's services. The fourth one is that you encourage the use of various types of blocking technology to meet the requirements of protecting children, whilst recognising the limitations of some of our industry partners.

  Chairman: They are useful suggestions and it is valuable evidence you have given to us and thank you very much.

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