Germany checks 22 million cards for child porn payments

German police have collaborated with credit-card companies to search databases for data that could lead to those who buy child pornography online

German police have added a new weapon in their fight against child pornography on the Internet -- in addition to scouring IP addresses, they're now collaborating with credit-card companies to search databases for transaction information.

As part of an operation dubbed "Mikado," members of a special child-porn squad in the German state of Sachsen-Anhalt have worked with credit-card companies to pour over the transactions of more then 22 million customers. The search uncovered 322 people suspected of purchasing child pornography illegally over the Internet.

The database search was conducted by the credit-card companies, not the German police, which have no direct access to the financial records of people registered in Germany,

German data privacy laws allow police to ask financial institutions to provide data about individuals but only if the investigators meet certain conditions, including a concrete suspicion of illegal behaviour and narrowly defined search criteria, according to Johann Bizer, deputy director of the Independent Center for Privacy Protection in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein.

In the case under investigation, police were aware of a child pornography Web site outside of Germany that was attracting users inside the country. And they asked the credit-card companies to conduct a database search narrowed to three criteria: a specific amount of money, a specific time period and a specific receiver account.

"The police are not allowed to ask credit-card companies or banks to run a very broad database search," Bizer said. "They must have a concrete suspicion and provide very exact and limited search criteria."

While agreeing that tracking credit-card data -- in addition to an IP (Internet Protocol) address -- could deter online child pornography, Bizer warned that credit-card data monitoring could lead to mistrust, especially if customers aren't properly informed.

German police have been intensifying efforts to track down suspected child-pornography users in the country. Auction sites, exchange portals and chat rooms are prime targets of their monitoring efforts.

Although police have the technical ability to hack into private computers while users are connected to the Internet and are viewing child pornography, German lawmakers are still deciding on the legality of this procedure.

Abusers risk jail time if caught using the Internet to view and trade child sex photos and videos.

More than 800 cases of child pornography passed through the Baden-Wurttemberg district attorney's office in Stuttgart in 2006 alone.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John Blau

IDG News Service
Show Comments


Brother MFC-L3745CDW Colour Laser Multifunction

Learn more >



Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >


Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers


This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang


It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries


As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr


The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?