How IBM and Stop the Traffik are taking on the traffickers with technology

On International Human Rights Day, Mark Wakefield, Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs Manager, IBM UK explains how the company has been helping to prevent human trafficking through its support of Stop the Traffik.

 Mark Wakefield, Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs Manager, IBM UK

No matter their size, sector, location or scope, no business can ignore human rights. Their scope is wide, covering everything from the right to education to access to water, but one issue in particular is now the most pressing cause of human rights abuses across the world – human trafficking.

Human trafficking is the fastest growing global crime, and is one of the largest sources of income for organised crime. Profits from the trade are estimated to be $150billion annually1. It is also a hidden crime, making measuring the scale of the problem difficult for the charities, governments and businesses working together to tackle the issue.  Yet estimates suggest that there are 1.1 million new human trafficking victims each year2, many of whom will have been tricked, or be victims of serious violence.

Partnering with the charity Stop the Traffik, IBM has used its expertise in data and analysis to tackle the huge challenges around data collection, intelligence and collaborative strategies to combat human trafficking criminals and disrupt their operations.

Stop the Traffik has worked tirelessly for many years to prevent human trafficking, partnering with civil society bodies, business and government to better understand the issue. Its core idea is that empowering people in local communities to take action is the key to disrupting the criminals’ networks.

Technology tracking traffickers

A critical element in disrupting these networks is providing secure and discreet ways to report suspected trafficking, and Stop the Traffik have recently created an app allowing people to do this.  The STOP APP is freely available on Stop the Traffik’s website, and all main app stores. It enables anybody who knows, has seen or even heard a situation that they believe to be human trafficking to talk about it in a safe and secure space, using their smartphone.

At IBM, we’ve supported Stop the Traffick by donating five i2 analyst software licenses. This sophisticated analysis tool is most commonly used by crime and intelligence agencies to counter terrorism around the world. It’s a tool that allows you to build up a rich picture of every element of an event, such as phone calls, relationships, individuals, flows of funding and communications.  

Along with the i2 analyst software itself, IBM has also given training to volunteers in its use, and continues to provide access to the professional knowledge and skills of the i2 software development team to build the capabilities of the team.

And underlying this, we also provided a database, hosted on our SoftLayer Cloud, to receive the information flowing in from the STOP APP.

Picturing the traffickers' criminal networks

Access to these groundbreaking tools means Stop the Traffik can use the information flowing in from the app to build an accurate map of trafficking networks and hotspots. This helps it respond to a problem that by definition crosses borders and legal jurisdictions, making it difficult for traditional law enforcers to track people accurately.

By combining information flowing in from the community information with data sets shared by other institutions, such as financial institutions, crime and intelligence agencies, Stop the Traffik is beginning to build a global centre for intelligence-led prevention of human trafficking. That means better targeting of tools, resources and messages to those at risk, and better success at uncovering the human traffickers.

At IBM, we encourage all businesses, in the UK and abroad, to tell their staff about the STOP APP.  By adding their trafficking stories, old and new, through the app, they can share in the building of a clearer picture of what is happening on the ground.  And once we have enough data, once that picture is clear enough, there will be scope for emerging artificial intelligence technologies to give us even greater insight.

Tell your staff, your supply chain and your networks to download the STOP APP today, and contribute their piece of the picture we need to stop the human traffickers.


References

1. International Labour Office, 2014. Profits and poverty: the economics of forced labour. [pdf] Geneva: International Labour Office. Available at: http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---ed_norm/---declaration/documents/publication/wcms_243391.pdf.

2. Chan, B., 2013. ‘Hong Kong “a hot-bed for modern slavery”’, South China Morning Post, [online] 27 September, cited on the Stop the Traffik website.