Safeguarding Human Rights: 5 ways Big Data is helping fight child trafficking

1.2 million children trafficked each year, says the International Labor Organization (ILO); United Nations pitches in

by | Dec 13, 2016 | General

On the occasion of Human Rights Day, human and child trafficking has emerged as challenges for mankind. Child trafficking is growing fast across the world. According to the International Labor Organization 1.2 million children are trafficked each year, often with human rights implications. The 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 1999 ILO Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention have spoken about the human crisis facing mankind. Even in India the demand for child sex workers is showing an upward trend. Approximately 40% of sex workers are children. Around 90% of trafficking in India is inter-state, which sees millions of children trafficked into prostitution. According to NGO estimates, around 12,000–50,000 women as well as children are trafficked into India every year from Nepal and Bangladesh.

Big Data Analytics can help enforcement agencies track child trafficking?

  • Data from telephone calls, legal service providers, company contacts, etc. can be brought to a single user-friendly platform that has a searchable and analyzable interface. Old crime records can be digitized and imported into an analyzable structure, so that the minute a distress call comes from a victim, this information is immediately pushed to the resource.
  • Through virtual integration, data from various formats and levels should be available at one click. This would ensure speedy response times for victims who call the hotline. Information such as license plate numbers, online ads, and cellphone records to locate victims should be immediately culled. Advanced analytics tools and predictive analytics along with mapping programs and image recognition can be leveraged to locate victims in real time and predict traffickers’ next moves.
  • Sharing of information and trends globally to develop prevention strategies to preempt human trafficking on the basis of the offenders’ behavior.
  • Photographs to be mined from ads put up by escort agencies and websites and then matched with pictures of missing persons. This should then be run through Big Data tools to infer trends and tips. Website-based tools could geocode telephone numbers and trace the underlying networks and distribution of the buyers and sellers.
  • Child trafficking raids yield huge data. Such big datasets are no problem for Big Data Analytics. Data and user-friendly platforms along with visualizations can help decipher the bigger picture, bringing to light new insights into the trade and thus ways and means to tackle it.

The experiment with Big Data has proved to be a success in the USA. Tools have been able to pinpoint 170 different qualitative and quantitative variables per case record. Advanced big data analytics tools evaluated tips, such as phone calls (31,945), online submissions (1,669), and SMS (787). The Polaris Project leverages Big Data to fight child trafficking. Its software sifts through seemingly unrelated data for meaningful connections, providing speedy response to victims who call hotlines.

“If that link up to the relevant service provider can be made in a minute or two as opposed to five minutes of a search through a file folder or Excel sheet, that window of opportunity may stay open for intervention or close in a very short time,” said Jason Payne, who is associated with Palantir’s philanthropy engineering team.

Law enforcement agencies must get their act together and leverage new technology

Resolving the complex network of human trafficking and locating missing children is a Herculean task. The information from disparate sources is huge and unstandardized. Response times are short. The loss of 10 minutes could spell the life and death of a trapped person. Police and law enforcement agencies need cutting-edge tools to beat the traffickers, who are technology-savvy, using social media to ensnare victims, smart phones with GPS tracking to monitor victims.

“On the occasion of Human Rights Day, I want to say that Big Data, together with Analytics, can bring to the fore interesting connections and links that may have escaped previous investigators. It is particularly useful in crisis situations when the response times have to be really short,” said Shashank Dixit, CEO, Deskera, a global leader in cloud technology that has its own Big Data tool.

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