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Science

Tracking Pedophiles By Their Typing Habits 292

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the you-gotta-be-kidding dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Pedophiles using the internet to target youngsters could be tracked down — by the way they use a keyboard. Researchers are investigating ways to use technology which can determine a typist's age, sex and culture within ten keystrokes by monitoring their speed and rhythm." Since Phrenology hasn't exactly panned out, they gotta try something new.
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Tracking Pedophiles By Their Typing Habits

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  • Foolproof (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MyLongNickName (822545) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @08:20AM (#31609526) Journal

    I am sure this is foolproof! Sign me up!

  • Typical /. summary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wowbagger (69688) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @08:23AM (#31609566) Homepage Journal

    Typical /. summary - conflating the idea of "we can tell how old you are from your typing" with "we can tell if you are Wicked Uncle Ernie by your typing."

    The idea of this would be that if you can tell that somebody is a 40 year old man, and they are on a forum saying they are a 12 year old girl, you can flag that as being suspicious.

    Of course, the problem is that a web site or chat forum has relatively little visibility of the user's typing pattern, so unless you force all forums to be accessed by special software that can monitor typing (AND you prevent the use of cut-and-paste so that you type in one window, then paste into the chat window, or detect such matters and flag THAT) then this won't be very useful at all.

    Of course, making THAT statement in the summary would be hard, and would require actually thinking about the story.

    As I said, typical /. summary.

  • Congrats! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by boneglorious (718907) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @08:24AM (#31609572) Journal
    Now good luck getting this pedophiles to have those sensors hooked up and letting themselves be videoed and monitored. How about saving yourself the analysis and just looking on their screen for child porn??
  • Wait... what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kell Bengal (711123) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @08:24AM (#31609576)
    It boggles my mind that they even consider this a legitimate avenue of inquiry... I mean, really. How many opportunities do kiddy-fiddlers present for you to analyse their keystrokes, but not say... their IP? Sure, it allows you to tie an online interaction to a particular user, but if you have that kind of hook into their system odds are you know more than enough to do that already.

    Oh wait, you mean there are applications where you want to tie users to content generically on the internet, but you think it's too invasive to make everyone agree to it simply so you can sell them more soda or send them to prison for their political ideas? That's OK - we'll just say it's targeting pedophiles.

    That always works.
  • by Joce640k (829181) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @08:33AM (#31609706) Homepage

    I'm pretty sure chat programs send the message in chunks, not individual keystrokes. /Didn't dignify the article with a reading.

  • good luck (Score:4, Insightful)

    by roman_mir (125474) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @08:34AM (#31609718) Homepage Journal

    Good luck figuring anything out at all from people who are proficient enough in typing, touch-typists with years of experience who is who, who is a man, who is a woman, how old they are.

    FTFA: men are 'heavy-handed and women are 'lighter' and their typing 'flows more' - that is beat by touch-typing.

    But the basic problem with this is that it is a Turing test. Can a 'pedophile' impersonate someone that he/she is not? I think they should be able to, they fool kids supposedly into believing that they are also kids, of-course it is not that difficult to fool a kid, but maybe it is because it is not that hard to pretend on the Internet if you are really putting in the time to do it.

    I can only guess why the 'pedophile' line is used here again, is it about the money? Is Roy Maxion trying to get a grant money from the government for this 'research'? I think so.

    'If children are talking to each other on Windows Live or MSN messenger, Microsoft might be able to see if there's an adult on there.'

    - MSN, the world police. What are they going to do if there is a suspicion, block access and send cops?

    The department, which was formed last summer, believes the new technology could be used to prevent fraud at cash machines.

    - ATMs? So from pushing 4-6 digit pin and a few menu options they are going to figure out whether it is a woman/man, what's the age etc?

    I can only imagine one possibility: record information collected from the actual account holder pushing the buttons and compare the speed of typing and delays between touches and releases to try and see if it's the same person. It's not as sexy as figuring out person's age and gender though, is it?

    Also how are they going to figure out how pedophiles type? Are they going to find actual pedophiles and make them sit in front of a computer and type? Did they somehow figure out that pedophiles all have the same typing abilities/habits? Do pedophiles all have the same profession and are they really that easy to figure out from the rest of the 'normal' people? Anyway, I think this 'research' is a load of bull crap and it's all about grant money.

  • And... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @08:36AM (#31609736)
    But even more, how does it follow that the highest use of research into this sort of "knowledge" will / should automatically be use to find pedophiles? Isn't this just more of the THINK OF THE CHILDREN *hysteria*?
  • by boneglorious (718907) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @08:37AM (#31609760) Journal
    Exactly, and add to that the variances in how quickly things move over the internet, and suddenly your error margin in almost certainly unacceptably large.
  • by MtHuurne (602934) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @08:46AM (#31609840) Homepage

    It's not hard to monitor typing into an edit box using JavaScript. The script could compute some kind of typing signature and then send that to the server. Copy-pasting all text is a very odd way of typing and could be flagged.

    I doubt such a detection algorithm would be accurate for all people, so they should not start auto-suspending accounts based on this. But it would help if a human moderator gets some hints about which accounts to pay closer attention to, since manually monitoring everything is not feasible.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 25, 2010 @08:46AM (#31609848)

    Please keep in mind that, in reality, we have to deal with Republicans, "Teabaggers", and others of their ilk.

    They don't realize the limitations of technology. They don't particularly care about fair justice, either.

    So they have absolutely no qualms about referring to somebody they dislike as a "pedophile", and then backing it up with this sort of keystroke analysis as "proof".

    If you don't believe me, just look at how they justified the Invasion of Iraq. They showed computer-generated images of "weapons labs" and pictures of heating ducts, all in front of the UN!

  • ffs (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Therilith (1306561) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @08:52AM (#31609918)
    Pedophile != child molester
  • by mdwh2 (535323) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @09:12AM (#31610138) Journal

    I fully agree with your rant - and furthermore, this article is in the UK, where 17 is over the age of consent.

    It's rather ridiculous - that story has been all over the media, and referenced in stories to do with child abuse, such as the recent demands to force Facebook to have a big red panic button. Not just the tabloids either - places like the BBC have been reporting the murder story, as if she was underage. Yet not one of these places has even noted that the age of consent is actually 16.

    It wouldn't have mattered if she was 17, 18, or 50. The problem here was not how old he or she was, but instead the rather more serious point that he murdered her. (I think it's telling that a simple murder is not considered bad - no, we've got to report on someone being 17, even if that's not underage...)

  • Re:oh no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jurily (900488) <jurily&gmail,com> on Thursday March 25, 2010 @09:19AM (#31610250)

    How does this work anyway? Does it account for the fact that I know my keyboard is wearing out and thus tend to hit the keys a bit stronger? Does that make me a man?

    Does it account for the fact that I grew up typing, and don't even need to look at the keyboard or screen while typing, because it "flows"? Does that make me a woman?

    Does it distinguish between typing on a laptop keyboard and a regular one? Since I'm used to laptop keys, I tend to go softer on regular keyboards. Does that make me a pedophile?

    And most importantly: WHAT DOES MY TYPING SPEED HAVE TO DO WITH WHO I WANT TO FUCK?

  • Re:oh no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jurily (900488) <jurily&gmail,com> on Thursday March 25, 2010 @09:30AM (#31610370)

    One more thing: the caption for the picture says "Fears: Ashleigh Hall, 17, was murdered by Peter Chapman after meeting him on Facebook. Her killing has sparked calls for more security to protect people online"

    Can you tell me how anything portrayed in this sentence could possibly relate to typing habits?

    This whole article is just standard fearmongering, and not even the entertaining kind.

  • by andrewbaldwin (442273) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @09:42AM (#31610506)

    Reminds me of an old joke:

    "How do you confuse a Daily Mail reader?"

    "Tell them immigrants kill paedophiles!"

    (You can, of course, recycle this with any of the Mail's current list of hate targets [BBC, the EU, Muslims, Labour Party, Environmentalists, Unions, .... the list is long)

  • Mod parent up (Score:2, Insightful)

    by davidwr (791652) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @09:56AM (#31610722) Homepage Journal

    CHILD MOLESTERS WHO AREN'T PEDOHPILES:

    Close to half of real child molesters are members of the family or household, and many of them are not pedophiles:

    *The lonely single dad who is tempted by his teenage daughter and puts his needs above hers
    *The horny or power-tripping teenager who molests his siblings

    Then there are the rapists who pick on kids not out of any sense of love or because they like sex with kids but because they like hurting people and it's easier to hurt or intimidate a kid into silence than an adult.

    PEDOPHILES WHO AREN'T CHILD MOLESTERS:

    There are an unknown number of pedophiles who you never hear about because they are socially and legally responsible individuals. The ones lucky enough to also be attracted to adults may be in healthy adult romantic relationships.

  • by Jurily (900488) <jurily&gmail,com> on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:15AM (#31611056)

    Copy-pasting all text is a very odd way of typing and could be flagged.

    From your argument, it follows, that

      - quoting from the post you're answering to is very odd and could be flagged
      - youtube links are very odd and could be flagged
      - sharing a patch with fellow developers is very odd and could be flagged

    But nevermind that. Let's say the typing monitor works perfectly, and it can accurately detect who you want to have sex with (and whether you're going to rape and murder them). Let's say today it says I'm heterosexual and perfectly normal.

    If I decide tomorrow that I like 6 year old boys better, and dump my girlfriend, what exactly will change in my typing that makes me detectable, how does it change, and most importantly, why would it? Remember, the algorithm is perfect.

    And who the fuck came up with the idea that people have only typing style? Do you sometimes drink coffee while typing? Do you sometimes use the mouse while typing? Does one of your keys not work perfectly every time so you have to stop and think about it for a moment?

  • by apoc.famine (621563) <.apoc.famine. .at. .gmail.com.> on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:21AM (#31611140) Homepage Journal
    I type vastly different on my home system than I do at work (on a mac) or on my netbook. Hell, I type differently now at work than I usually do, as I've got a stack of books under my left elbow that I'm supposed to be reading.

    The speeds are different, the mistakes are different, the key-presses a different strength, the mousing and clicking are different, etc. I really don't see that this is more than an attempt to get funding by waving the pedo flag.
  • Re:oh no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:29AM (#31611330)

    That's very sad for her, but unless our 17 year old Ashleigh still had to enter puberty, her death has very little ('nothing' to be precise) to do with pedophilia.

  • Re:oh no (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:48AM (#31611698)

    The Internet: Where men are men, women are men, and children are FBI agents.

  • Re:oh no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ultranova (717540) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:48AM (#31611704)

    One more thing: the caption for the picture says "Fears: Ashleigh Hall, 17, was murdered by Peter Chapman after meeting him on Facebook. Her killing has sparked calls for more security to protect people online"

    Can you tell me how anything portrayed in this sentence could possibly relate to typing habits?

    Or, for that matter, what does it have to do with pedophiles?

    This whole article is just standard fearmongering, and not even the entertaining kind.

    Actually it seems to be a scam, based on this: "Mr Butler said: 'We're going to submit a proposal to the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council for a bid of probably about £1million so that we can develop the research further."

    There's just no possible way you can spend the equivalent of 1.4 million dollars or 1.1 million euros making statistical correlations betweem "typing patterns, speeds and rhythms" and people's background, even if you a dumb enough to believe there is a correlation in the first place.

  • by theArtificial (613980) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @02:25PM (#31615862)
    Lets replace this headline with something else:

    Tracking Whites by the way they type
    Tracking Blacks by the way they type

    This seems like a slippery slope. I'm getting tired of all this "pedo" tracking. Our software has determined you type like a pedo, not a rapist. What next? How about monitoring your children? Know what they do, where they go, who their friends are.

"Pascal is Pascal is Pascal is dog meat." -- M. Devine and P. Larson, Computer Science 340

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