There’s a rising tide of slavery in the world, luckily the smart minds behind these technologies are fighting back. Today marks Britain’s official Anti-Slavery Day, while this may sound like something that just doesn’t happen in 2016, the reality is that slavery is very much alive and well. Over the last two years slavery has actually been a growing problem, especially across Europe. The law enforcement agency of the EU, Europol, estimates that around 10,000 unaccompanied children have gone missing during Europe’s migration crisis. Where have these children gone? No one really knows for sure, but sex trafficking, prostitution and being sold into slavery are their best guesses. Luckily there are several new technologies being developed to fight back against the rising tide of human trafficking and slavery around the world.
1. The STOP app
The STOP app is a data collection app that calls on everyone to submit videos and photos of any behaviour that they believe may be related to human trafficking. Launched by Stop the Traffik, a charity seeking to raise awareness about human trafficking, and with backers including the Financial Times as part of their 2016 MBA Challenge.
Much of the ‘business’ of human trafficking, sex trafficking and modern slavery takes place not on the regular internet, but the dark web where sites are not accessible via regular search engines like Google This makes it hard, if not impossible, for the police to monitor the millions of websites that exist in the dark web. Enter Memex. Developed by the research arm of the US military, DARPA, Memex can collect content ignored by regular search engines, analyse it for hidden patterns, and build models to predict behaviour.
For example, Memex has been used to scan 100m escort ads, and uncover the pricing patterns that indicate an organised trafficking ring, as opposed to prostitutes working solo – solo operators will adjust prices based on risk, while organised rings will set prices without regard for the safety situation on the ground.
3. Hotel Room
We first covered TraffickCam earlier this year, the app that’s calling on people to take photos of their hotel rooms in order to fight trafficking. Sounds crazy, but actually by building up a database of hotel rooms TraffickCam’s creators are using these to identify the rooms where the victims of sex trafficking are being held.
Another tool for dealing with the over 100,000 new escort ads which are posted online every day. Spotlight archives this information and lets police quickly search and categorise it, whether that’s flagging up ads which may involve children or searching for a specific phone number of a vulnerable or missing person. The developers of Spotlight say it can cut the time it takes for police to investigate trafficking by up to 44%, leaving them with more time to investigate more cases.