Google Targets Human Traffickers with Help from Big Data

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Refugees from Myanmar wait for registration in Thailand after being rescued from a human-trafficking gang along the Malaysian border

Google has announced that it is taking steps to help combat human trafficking – a $32 billion illegal enterprise that exploits 20.9 million people worldwide, according to research from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Google’s involvement includes a $3 million grant through its Global Impact Award program to three anti-trafficking organizations – Polaris Project, Liberty Asia and La Strada International.

Google will also leverage its Big Data technical expertise through its Google Ideas task force to build “…the first data-sharing platform to identify global patterns on how the human-trafficking trade operates and how to better protect the victims,” according to a story written by Bernhard Warner in Bloomberg Businessweek.

The story quotes Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas, who said, “Nine months ago, starting with the Google Ideas Summit, we set out to map, expose, and disrupt the workings of illicit networks. This includes organized crime, narco-trafficking, organ harvesting. Every single one of these networks involved human trafficking.”

The Google Ideas task force will team with Palantir Technologies and to build a data-sharing platform to identify and analyze how the trafficking trade operates and how to better protect its victims.

The alliance announced on Tuesday means the three anti-trafficking networks, which operate emergency hotlines in North America, Europe, and Southeast Asia, will share data on where the emergency phone calls are originating, the ages of the victims, their home countries, and the types of criminal activities they have been forced into,” writes Warner. “With the help of, Palantir, and Google, the agencies will be able to crunch data like this in real time to detect crime trends that they can then share with police and policymakers to help protect victims.”

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