'How to protect kids from dangerous online relationships'

Israeli company develops technology called Kangaroo to detect and protect young Internet users from dangers in the virtual environment.

August 11, 2011 16:41
2 minute read.
Protecting young internet users from dangers

Hand coming out of computer screen (illustrative) 311. (photo credit: Don Hankins)


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Alexandra Man writes for No Camels.

David Schwimmer’s latest movie, “Trust”, says it all: "In the face of the enormity of the online world, protecting your child from potential predators is near impossible."

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In the movie, a 14-year-old girl enters into a virtual relationship with a man she believes is 19-years-old. When she discovers, months later, that he is actually a middle-aged pedophile, it is already too late.

This extreme scenario is every parent’s worst nightmare. Other problems for children on the Internet are the impossibility of controlling their access to sexually explicit content or the relatively new phenomenon of cyber-bullying.

Building on the need for better protection, an Israeli company, Sensegon, has developed a technology, called Kangaroo, to detect and protect young Internet users from dangers in the virtual environment. Inspired by advanced military intelligence software and developed with algorithms designed to identify predatory behavior patterns online, Sensegon informs about potential high-risk developments in virtual relationships.

Some services and programs already exist that use a textual scan and show a warning if a “hot” word is detected. Those “hot” words are words that either have sexual connotations, or show an attempt to meet with the child. But this textual analysis is not always effective or relevant for detecting real threats.

Sensegon’s system is based on artificial intelligence for analyzing and detecting patterns using a “virtual body language” of the sides involved in the online relationship. The system alerts about offensive or potentially criminal relationships – without exposing the content itself, in order to protect the child’s privacy. Sensagon’s technology is based on behavioral analysis modules that can differentiate various kinds of relationships and analyzes 200 different parameters in order to identify whether a relationship is taking a problematic direction.

Sensegon’s CEO Omer Efrat, says his goal is for his software to train children to understand the danger themselves: ”Instead of acting like a police officer censoring certain words, [Sensegon] acts as an advisor to your child so that he or she can learn to recognize danger and change behaviors to stay safe. The technology works by mapping the child’s interactions and the roles played by various online friends over time, then predicting what turn relationships will take based upon patterns and probabilities. This enables the child to think critically about his or her online relationships and look at indicators that he or she might have missed.”

One of the projects that Sengsegon is taking part in is on the Israeli children’s social network “Daf Kesher” (Hebrew for contact list). The system is embedded into the social network and can alert when suspicious relationships start to form.

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