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Google Uses Big Data to Fight Human Trafficking

Google Uses Big Data to Fight Human Trafficking
April 10, 2013 2:00PM

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The Google funding is also being used by the Polaris Project to launch a Global Human Trafficking Hotline Network, an alliance of anti-trafficking hotlines. Since the end of 2007, the organization's National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline for the U.S., funded by the U.S. government, has taken 72,000 calls, made connections between 8,300 survivors and support services, and referred 3,000 cases of human trafficking to legal authorities.

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Big Data is being used to obtain intelligence on virtually every transaction conceivable. Now, Google is taking Big Data analytics into a new arena -- the fight against human trafficking.

In the second decade of the 21st Century, one might expect that human trafficking would be in its last stages before being eradicated, like smallpox. But, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, nearly 21 million people worldwide are in some kind of forced labor, such as the sex trade or slave labor, and human trafficking is currently a $32 billion industry.

On Monday, Google announced that it will contribute $3 million to three anti-trafficking organizations -- the Polaris Project, Liberty Asia and La Strada International. The grant is part of the company's Global Impact Award program, which is designed to support entrepreneurial nonprofits that use technology to change the world. The company said that its total contributions to anti-trafficking efforts, over several years, now total $14.5 million.

International Hotline

But Google will also contribute its technical know-how, through its Google Ideas Task Force, to create the first data-sharing platform to track human trafficking patterns. The company will work with Palantir Technologies and Salesforce.com in this effort. Palantir is donating its data integration and analytics platform, and Salesforce is helping Polaris scale its call tracking infrastructure internationally. The pattern-busting is expected to involve not only human trafficking, but organized crime, narco-trafficking and organ harvesting.

Some of the data used will include sources of emergency phone calls, ages of victims, home countries, and kinds of crimes. The intention is to detect global trends, help more victims escape, and create a response system that includes larger strategic intervention efforts. Trends might indicate which geographical areas are experiencing spikes, if a reduction in slavery in one region leads to an increase in another, if patterns show where organized trafficking is originating, or which campaigns are more successful.

The Google funding is also being used by the Polaris Project to launch a Global Human Trafficking Hotline Network, an alliance of anti-trafficking hotlines. Since the end of 2007, the organization's National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline for the U.S., funded by the U.S. government, has taken 72,000 calls, made connections between 8,300 survivors and support services, and referred 3,000 cases of human trafficking to legal authorities.

Why Wednesdays?

Polaris Chief Executive Office Bradley Myles told Bloomberg Businessweek that, as just one example of unanalyzed data, the organization has known that it gets more calls from "survivors under the control of a violent pimp" on Wednesdays than on other days, but doesn't know why.

On Monday, the White House held a Forum to Combat Human Trafficking that brought together advocates, service providers, researchers, business leaders, law enforcement officials and leaders in the technology and religious communities.

In a posting Tuesday on Google's Official Blog, the company said that "clear international strategies, increased cooperation, and appropriate data sharing amongst anti-trafficking organizations will help victims, prevention efforts, and sound policymaking."

"Slavery can be stopped," Google posted. "Let's get to it."

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