Category Archives: Crime Prevention

Human Trafficking – Technology and Real Issues

Commentary
Bill Owen – TechNewsBlog.net

Follow up Commentary to 2/14/19 post on Human Trafficking: How technology is tackling human trafficking by Alexon Bell, Global Head of AML and Compliance at Quantexa.

Human trafficking is the trade of humans for the purpose of forced labour, sexual slavery, or commercial sexual exploitation for the trafficker or others.[1][2] This may encompass providing a spouse in the context of forced marriage,[3][4][5] or the extraction of organs or tissues,[6][7] including for surrogacy and ova removal.[8] Human trafficking can occur within a country or trans-nationally. Human trafficking is a crime against the person because of the violation of the victim’s rights of movement through coercion and because of their commercial exploitation.[9] Human trafficking is the trade in people, especially women and children, and does not necessarily involve the movement of the person from one place to another.

Human trafficking has always been a part of society. Slavery, of any type, can be dated back to the establishment of any form of human civilization. It is fair to say that it exists in any major city and many smaller cities and towns, across the globe, right under our noses. It is the advent of various technologies that has brought this issue to the attention of the general public and has allowed governments and specialty organizations to make significant inroads into the freeing of victims and the incarceration of criminals.

Human trafficking: countries of origin and countries of destination


Click to enlarge

 

I have listed a small sampling of organizations involved with human trafficking below, be it a provider of technology that is currently being used to combat human trafficking, or a provider of direct surveillance and apprehension of criminals involved in this activity. It is the combination of technologies and collaboration of efforts from all parties that is making the difference. Note: I am not implying endorsement or making statements of support for their personal work or their projects.

Quantexa: As noted in the 2/14/19 article provided by Alexon Bell above, Quantexa has been involved in providing the technology, specifically artificial intelligence, that helps to keep law enforcement and global organizations on the heels of traffickers. An additional article/report from  Brian Wang, sole author and writer of nextbigfuture.com and his interview with Alexon Bell, posted January 26, 2019: Quantexa Uses Context-Aware Artificial Intelligence to Uncover Human Trafficking Networks

Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.): As their website main page states, “We exist to rescue children from sex trafficking.” Operation Underground Railroad is a non-profit founded by Tim Ballard which assists governments around the world in the rescue of human trafficking and sex trafficking victims, with a special focus on children. O.U.R. also aids with planning, prevention, capture, and prosecution of offenders, and works with partner organizations for prevention, victim recovery, strengthened awareness, and fundraising efforts.[10]  Quite a background story on Tim and the impetus behind this organization.

Human Trafficking Fact Sheet Infographic via O.U.R.

 

THORN: Digital Defenders of Children, previously known as DNA Foundation, is an international anti-human trafficking organization that works to address the sexual exploitation of children. The primary programming efforts of the organization focus on Internet technology and the role it plays in facilitating child pornography and sexual slavery of children on a global scale. The organization was founded by American actors Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher.

Kutcher speech on human trafficking before Congress:

 

Blue Campaign (DHS). The Blue Campaign is the unified voice for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) efforts to combat human trafficking. Working in collaboration with law enforcement, government, non-governmental and private organizations, the Blue Campaign strives to protect the basic right of freedom and to bring those who exploit human lives to justice.

 

Additional organizations involved with Human Trafficking

It is important to verify the legitimacy of any organization that you may want to get involved with. Remember, if there is ever a non-partisan issue that would be considered, this is definitely one of them. Be aware of any potential criminal or political attempt to capture your donations for anything other than the intended use for anti-trafficking causes. This list of organizations is the tip of the iceberg. There is no doubt a solid organization near you, if you want to get involved hands-on. Of course, donations can be made to any organization in any location. Again, all should be vetted first.

Before Giving to a Charity (via the Federal Trade Commission)

15 Ways You Can Help Fight Human Trafficking (via the U.S. Department of State)

List of organizations that combat human trafficking (via Wikipedia)

National Human Trafficking Hotline

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Human Trafficking

 

Background on Human Trafficking by region (via Wikipedia):

Human trafficking in the United States

Human trafficking in Canada

Human trafficking in Mexico

Human trafficking in South America

Human trafficking in Europe

Human trafficking in Australia

Human trafficking in the Middle East

Human trafficking in Southeast Asia

Human trafficking in Indonesia

Human trafficking in China

Human trafficking in Russia

Human trafficking in India

 

As you can see, this is a huge problem globally. This could happen to anyone. The news stories that you have heard over the years of missing people could very well be the victim of human trafficking and are still alive today under duress. With the diligent work of governments, organizations and individuals focused on this issue, as well as prayers from many people, a serious dent is being made to try and bring it to an end.

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References

  1. “UNODC on human trafficking and migrant smuggling”. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. 2011. Retrieved 22 March 2011.
  2. “Amnesty International – People smuggling”. Amnesty.org.au. 23 March 2009. Archived from the originalon 9 March 2011. Retrieved 22 March 2011.
  3. “Child Trafficking for Forced Marriage” (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 July 2013.
  4. “Slovakian ‘slave’ trafficked to Burnley for marriage”. BBC News.
  5. “MARRIAGE IN FORM, TRAFFICKING IN CONTENT: Non – consensual Bride Kidnapping in Contemporary Kyrgyzstan” (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 April 2014. Retrieved 2 November 2016.
  6. “Trafficking in organs, tissues and cells and trafficking in human beings for the purpose of the removal of organs” (PDF). United Nations. 2009. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  7. “Human trafficking for organs/tissue removal”. Fightslaverynow.org. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
  8. “Human trafficking for ova removal or surrogacy”. Councilforresponsiblegenetics.org. 31 March 2004. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
  9. MCLAUGHLIN. “What is Human Trafficking?”. www.unodc.org. Retrieved 2018-09-06.
  10. Erica Ritz (2014-10-27). “The Disturbing Reason Operation Underground Railroad Is Able to Take So Many Photos of Child Sex Traffickers”. The Blaze. TheBlaze Inc. Archived from the original on 2016-05-16. Retrieved 16 May 2016.

How technology is tackling human trafficking

18/07/2018
By Alexon Bell, Global Head of AML and Compliance at Quantexa
Contributor to Global Banking & Finance Review

 

Technology is both a blessing and a curse for officials fighting against human trafficking.

With the rise of social media and a world growing smaller through communication platforms, alongside the accessibility of online advertisements and encrypted messaging apps, traffickers have a host of technologies at their fingertips to help entrap victims, advertise their services and cover up the trafficker’s own illegal activity.

However, new technologies are becoming increasingly sophisticated and are playing a key role in eliminating human trafficking. Some are used to discover and rescue victims, others to identify networks of perpetrators. Many of these advancements are beginning to empower governments to source the root of trafficking rings and stop the activity at its core. In turn, this puts a new and heavier responsibility onto banks and corporates to innovate and improve their systems to themselves spot any nefarious activity and feed this back into the global effort against trafficking.

Spotting victims

At the heart of each case of human trafficking is a victim, but knowing the identity of this victim is difficult. Hundreds of images of abused children are shared online every day – even if all of these are flagged, many will be duplicates of cases that have already been actioned. Understanding whether an image is a duplicate or a new photo – which would require a new response from law enforcement – is difficult as such images are hard to track.

Previously, traffickers wanting to proliferate an image could make small tweaks to it, such as adding marks or a resizing the photo. This creates a distinct image, making it impossible to trace back altered duplicates using traditional methods.

Now, technologies are being used to outsmart traffickers and distinguish new and existing images faster. For example, Microsoft PhotoDNA imposes a fine grid over an image and assigns a numerical value to each square, representing the “hash” – like a DNA signature for the image. Rather than scanning for whole images, the program matches a numerical hash against a database of known illegal images to match duplicate images instantly.

To help law enforcement turn this innovation into positive action, Thorn – a tech start-up founded by Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore to fight child sexual abuse and trafficking – has partnered with Microsoft to allow organisations to add to and access a centralised hash sharing database. New images that have not been hashed are reported as belonging to a new victim – meaning law enforcement is alerted to a new victim sooner. This accelerates victim discovery and therefore, hopefully, rescue.

Preventing victim entrapment

Many perpetrators of modern day slavery use contract substitution to entrap their victims. Recruiters offer a lucrative contract to lure individuals abroad, but this is then reworded – often in a language the victim does not understand. Innovators are hoping that blockchain technology may soon help prevent this deception, if governments were to only issue visas when signed contracts are confirmed by the blockchain as matching those originally provided to the individual.

Finding traffickers

Traffickers can use technology to obscure their activity, but technology is also revolutionising the way officials are finding criminal networks. The key is joining the dots of information from NGOs, news sources, databases of known traffickers and details available to institutions such as banks.

Traditional human intelligence is gathered on the ground in a particular country by charities, looking at news sources, hearsay and other resources at their disposal. With many charities operating within one country alone, and much trafficking happening between countries, this information often then needs to be shared with governmental and intra-governmental organisations to compile a profile of a trafficker or activity more broadly. This traditional intelligence, however, is usually not enough to rapidly identify a network of traffickers.

Now, institutions like banks are helping combine this human intelligence with innovative technologies which joins the dots of information from these organisations with the bank’s own internal data and other third party sources. Using big data, artificial intelligence software is able to find links between individuals and their transactions, addresses, associates and company ties, alongside a mass of other relevant information which may suggest nefarious activity when seen in its proper context. By resolving these separate entities, AI tech can build a detailed picture of a criminal’s network, putting an individual transaction or relationship in its wider context. Using a combination of human intelligence and digitally compiled insight, organisations can identify traffickers and their connections.

While some technologies are accelerating trafficking, others are vital in tackling against this devastating crime. The combination of human intelligence, artificial intelligence and the sharing of information is starting to pay dividends.

Whether helping to identify victims, preventing them being ensnared or detecting traffickers themselves, innovative technology is helping at every stage of the fight against trafficking, enhancing processes to make every effort more efficient, effective and accurate – and, ultimately, life-saving.

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Side note to this article/report by Alexon Bell: I will be following up on the human trafficking issue in the near future with a Commentary. It will include key links to Fact Sheets, Quantexa’s specific involvement, including other organizations on the front lines. You may consider becoming involved (directly, donations to key organizations, etc.), and those sources will be added as well.

Bill Owen – TechNewsBlog.net

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