Over-exposed: Monash and Federal Police launch lab to tackle abhorrent material

Farm Sheeps

Monash University and the Australian Federal Police launch the new AiLECS Lab to help officers cope with abhorrent content as part of investigations.

Monash University and the Australian Federal Police launch the new AiLECS Lab to help officers cope with abhorrent content as part of investigations.

  • Monash University and the Australian Federal Police launch new initiative to help officers cope with abhorrent content as part of investigations.
  • World-first ‘Data Airlock’ technology to be rolled out to researchers globally. Academics can train algorithms without being exposed to disturbing data.
  • The lab will develop cutting edge automated technologies to assist the rapid detection and identification of victims and offenders.

Monash University and the Australian Federal Police (AFP) have joined forces to launch an initiative designed to help officers scan through thousands of confronting images and files faster with lower levels of emotional distress.

The Artificial Intelligence for Law Enforcement and Community Safety (AiLECS) Lab will be unveiled today (Monday 1 July) at Monash University by Professor Margaret Gardner AO, Monash University President and Vice-Chancellor; AFP Deputy Commissioner Karl Kent OAM, Commonwealth Transnational Serious and Organised Crime Coordinator; and Professor Jon Whittle, Dean of the Faculty of Information Technology at Monash University.

This Australia-first lab, supported by $2.5 million in funding, is part of the new Monash Data Futures initiative that will train and empower the next generation of scientists to use artificial intelligence and data science for social good.

Researchers from the University’s Faculty of Information Technology have worked with the AFP to develop a specialised machine learning algorithm to identify and classify content on seized devices, such as mobile phones and computers, before going to investigators for review.

While the initial focus has been on child exploitation material, over time the software will also be rolled out to cover content from terrorism cases that can cause significant psychological distress for investigators.

“The ultimate goal of this initiative is to ethically research the use of machine learning and data analytics in advancing law enforcement and community safety,” Dr Janis Dalins, AiLECS Lab co-director and federal agent, said.

“The automated detection of abhorrent material enhances workplace safety by going some way towards reducing the incidental and inadvertent exposure to such material by law enforcement practitioners.”

The AFP will also make real-world data available to researchers via the world-first ‘Data Airlock’ – a system that will enable researchers globally to develop and test machine learning algorithms without being exposed to confronting data.

The Data Airlock was built in partnership with CSIRO’s Data61 and is hosted at Monash University.

“Collectively, this will make the process of copying, automatically reviewing and making the data available to investigators quicker than existing procedures,” Dr Campbell Wilson, AiLECS lab co-director and Associate Dean (International) in Monash’s Faculty of Information Technology, said.

“What machine learning algorithms do is give us speed and portability – think hundreds of images per second. But machine learning won’t outperform the accuracy of experienced human investigators, which are essential to each case.”

Professor Margaret Gardner AO, President and Vice Chancellor of Monash University, said: “data science and artificial intelligence have extraordinary potential to create sustainable, societal and economic impact. At Monash, we recognise the critical role we can play in the advancement and application of these technologies to create transformative and lasting change.”

AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin said the AiLECS Lab would support the agency’s vision – policing for a safer Australia – in multiple and significant ways.

“This is a groundbreaking initiative from Monash University and the AFP that will minimise AFP officer exposure to child exploitation material and other distressing content,” Commissioner Colvin said.

“At the same time, it will vastly increase the speed and volume at which police can identify and classify this content.

“The AiLECS Lab will therefore ensure we hold more people accountable for these abhorrent crimes and, just as importantly, we better safeguard the wellbeing of both AFP officers and the community we are here to serve.”

Professor Whittle said the ethos of AiLECS was based around local and international collaboration, research translation and community impact.

“The work of this lab draws on expertise beyond computer science and AI, such as law and criminology, so as to contribute to community safety worldwide. International partnerships are already developing, with significant interest being expressed from government, industry and academia,” he said.

“We’re delighted to be working with the AFP on this important initiative.”

Professor Jordan Nash, Dean of the Faculty of Science at Monash, said the AiLECS Lab is just one example of how Monash Data Futures will power the University’s work in data science and AI.

“Co-led by the faculties of Information Technology and Science, but operating as a University-level institute, Monash Data Futures brings together data science and AI capabilities across the University, creating a blended physical, digital and virtual ecosystem for collaborative research, industry engagement and innovative education,” Professor Nash said.

For more information, please visit monash.edu/ai-data-science