More than 300 tech tools could be used to combat human trafficking globally, a new study recommends

Traffickers are widely misusing technology to advance their criminal activities. Yet, technology can be used to support prosecution, prevention, and protection of victims.

It is estimated that there are about 25 million victims of human trafficking globally. More and more of them are exploited online. Photo David Rodrigues.

A new study conducted by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and Tech Against Trafficking, a coalition of technology companies helping to end human trafficking using technology, sheds light on how technology is being used and can be used to prevent and combat human trafficking worldwide.

The study examines how technology is misused to facilitate human trafficking, how more than 300 hundreds of tech tools have approached the problem, and how governments, civil society, and the private sector can strategically use tech to combat trafficking. This first-ever joint project between the OSCE and TAT has produced the report: “Leveraging innovation to fight trafficking in human beings: a comprehensive analysis of technology tools.” 

It is estimated that there are about 25 million victims of human trafficking globally. More and more of them are exploited online.

It is estimated that there are about 25 million victims of human trafficking globally. More and more of them are exploited online. Traffickers are widely misusing technology to advance their criminal activities. Yet, technology can be used to support prosecution, prevention, and protection of victims. The intersection of technology and trafficking in human beings is one of the defining topics of the global conversation on efforts to end human trafficking.

“Today, we clearly understand the crucial importance of addressing the double-edged sword that technology is for human trafficking,” says Valiant Richey, the OSCE Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings (SR/CTHB). “Indeed, countries’ future success in eradicating human trafficking will depend on how they are prepared for and equipped to harness technology to fight this crime.”

The study 

The OSR/CTHB-TAT publication identifies and analyses more than 300 technology initiatives while also addressing ethical considerations, data protection issues, and the need to respect rights in the use of technology.

A strong emphasis has been put on fighting human trafficking through market-based interventions, data aggregation, and analysis tools, which can identify significant trends in the THB marketplaces and can engage a large number of THB actors at the same time.

The research also highlights tools that can impact fighting THB for labor exploitation in global supply chains, including block-chain technology. These tools are designed to scale up responses and prevention of THB on a worldwide scale.

“The tech industry must initiate and develops solutions which take into account the target users’ internet and digital capacities, as well as their regions’ technological infrastructure,” says Thi Hoang, an analyst at GI-TOC Network coordination (Global Initiative against transnational organized crime). “They should also prioritize tools that help with victim case management and support – the tool type currently underrepresented according to our analysis.”

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“To avoid duplication of efforts, it is recommended that these anti-trafficking tools are made open source and/or shared and exchanged with other stakeholders in the field,” she adds.

The paper also provides a set of general recommendations for all actors involved in the use of technology to combat trafficking and a more specific set of recommendations for governments, including establishing or strengthening partnerships with tech companies to invest in research and development.

1 COMMENT

  1. This is really interesting. It would be nice to know some examples, how those tools are used by both perpetrators and prosecutors. A follow-up article would be appreciated.

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