1. Extra Categories
  2. Editor's Pick
May 3, 2019updated 07 May 2019 3:23pm

Tech for good: How AI is being used to tackle human trafficking

By Ellen Daniel

With an estimated 40.3 million victims currently affected by modern-day slavery, human trafficking is an urgent problem that spans the globe. According to Stop the Traffik, in the UK alone the number of incidents reported has risen by 36% in a year, but the covert nature of human trafficking means that it often goes undetected.

One organisation, Stop the Traffik,  is using technology to combat this. Originally launched in 2016, the STOP app provides the public with a way of reporting potential incidents of modern-day slavery or trafficking in a way that is “anonymous, confidential and secure”.

How does the technology work?

Users can report suspicious activity by sending either a message or uploading a photo or video, which is then sent to a secure database and analysed alongside datasets on human trafficking.

As a global problem, investigating incidents of modern-day slavery often involves many different organisations including law enforcement, NGOs and financial institutions, and it is often difficult to share intelligence about potential incidents of human trafficking.

Originally, information reported through the STOP app was investigated by analysts, but as the number of cases increases, this task becomes more difficult. Fortunately, by using the power of AI and cloud computing, this can be streamlined.

Stop the Traffik now uses IBM AI services hosted on IBM Cloud to extract and process information from the reports, which can assist analysts in investigating incidents that may require a rapid response such as alerting the relevant authorities.

Technology can also be used to use the information generated by the app, along with other sources, to identify patterns and hotspots for human trafficking.

This information helps create a more complete picture of the issue worldwide, with the insights from the app are also used to develop reports that can then be shared with other organisations to be used in their own work to help them tackle the issue.

The app can be downloaded from the App Store and Google Play.

AI for good

This is one example of how AI are being used to tackle the widespread issue, but other organisations are also harnessing the benefits of the technology for the same cause.

Last year, IBM announced a collaboration with Western Union and European law enforcement to use AI to analyse financial data to identify hotspots for human trafficking based on how money is being moved around.

According to The Register, researchers from George Washington University, Temple University, and Adobe have developed a way of using machine learning to analyse photos or videos of victims of sex trafficking in hotel rooms to identify where they are being held based on a database of 50,000 locations.

Read more: How two companies are using technology to tackle the issue of supply chain slavery.