Device claims to find hidden porn on computers - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Device claims to find hidden porn on computers

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Charlie Mattingly Charlie Mattingly

By Eric Flack - bio | email

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Pornography is everywhere online and protecting your family from X-rated images on the internet is more difficult than ever. Now, a new device promises to find graphic sexual images hidden on your computer.

"I do have a 22-year-old," said Sherri Hopkins. "So he might be looking at it. Who knows?"

Parabean Corporation, based in Utah, said one way to know for sure is their Porn Detection Stick. A small, black thumb drive that costs about $100, it is being marketed to suspicious spouses, company HR managers, and worried parents. In other words, anyone who wants to know what might be hiding on a computer

"It's just like you're doing a digital forensic exam at home," said Amber Schroader, creator of the Porn Detection Stick and Parabean Corporation's CEO.

"And this is making it so you have an automated method to do it," Schroader said. "It's a tool to make your life easier."

So we asked the Better Business Bureau to put it to the test.

"If it works I can see some value in it," said BBB CEO Charlie Mattingly. "If it doesn't work, it's obviously a piece of junk that is taking people's money."

According to the Parabean web site, the Porn Detection Stick analyzes images on your computer hard drive and flags the ones suspected of being porn.

"I'm not aware of any porn images on my computer," Mattingly said before inserting the Porn Detection Stick in the USB port of his computer.

But after hours of scanning Mattingly's computer, the Porn Detection Stick said there were hundreds of suspected pornographic images on the his hard drive.

"It says it's got 534 suspected porn images," Mattingly said. "So obviously we'll have to see what those are."

As it turned out, the porn detection stick hit a wall.

"It looks like the first one is a brick wall doesn't it?" Mattingly said as he reviewed the images the Porn Detection Stick flagged as "highly suspected" of being porn.

"And the second one appears to be some siding," Mattingly said.

Pictures of flowers, panda bears and baby's feet also ended up being identified as porn.

In fact, the most risque image the Porn Detection Stick found was a scantily clad couple making out.

"I don't know exactly what they'd be going on because I don't see anything that strikes me as porn," Mattingly said.

We also decided to run a Porn Detection Stick test on a work computer. It came back with 149 suspected porn images. But when we opened the report folder, there wasn't any porn. Just a lot of random, non-pornographic pictures, including one of a young mother and her new baby from Facebook.

Parabean's web site promises just 1% false positives. In an interview, Schroader put the number closer to 2 to 3%.

"You are going to have a couple hundred pictures that are not going to be actual illicit images," Schroader said.

With hundreds of false positives possible in a single test, the company's numbers didn't seem to add up. But Schroader said her figures are based on the percentage of images scanned on a single hard drive.

For example, if the Porn Detection Stick searches 20,000 images on a hard drive, and generates 200 false positives, Schroader considers that a one percent fail rate.

But that explanation that gets a failing grade with the BBB.

"99 percent accurate I don't see here," Mattingly said. "I see about zero percent accurate."

Schroader said that statistical model, which measures things like flesh tones, curvature and light filtration, can be thrown off. She said white sand is nearly identical to the flesh tones she uses to identify naked skin, which may be why a picture of two small children on beach was flagged as porn on Mattingly's computer. But despite the false positives, Schroader said it's extremely unlikely the porn detection stick would miss a pornographic picture.

"You're always going to end up with a percentage that you're just going to have to weed through," Schroader said. "No garden is perfect. You're always going to have a couple weeds and you're just going to have to pull them out and go back and look at it."

And with so much pornography out there, parents like Mike Clark say any tool to help him keep tabs on his children is worth taking a look at.

"The pornography industry is a billion dollar industry," Clark said. "It's prevalent in everything you do and it's trying to creep into your life."

Another big limitation to the Porn Detection Stick is that it doesn't scan video. Schroader said she is working on that, but adds if you find pornographic pictures on a computer, it's a red flag video could be there too.

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