Human traffickers rely on the internet to advertise and maintain criminal enterprises. The Global Emancipation Network collects and analyzes the digital breadcrumbs they leave behind to help find victims and stop traffickers.
The organization uses data analytics to find, study, and make connections between people and the information they share online. With corporate partners including Microsoft (MSFT, Tech30), Splunk, and Recorded Future, the volunteer-run organization has created a searchable database and tool to find and analyze trafficking data.
Their external platform, called Minerva, is currently in beta, and the plan is to eventually provide it free to law enforcement and victim service providers. It includes image processing, data analytics, bitcoin analysis, and public records enrichment. Police will be able to use it to search for things like advertisements, phone numbers, or websites traffickers use.
Andrew Lewman, vice president of OWL Cybersecurity, says human traffickers will frequently start on Facebook to advertise smuggling services, then switch to encrypted chat apps and use anonymity tools like Tor to protect communications and information.
“One way traffickers uses the internet and darknet is to buy, sell, or coordinate people,” Lewman said. Like any business, much of it relies on the web.
Ultimately the platform will be free to law enforcement, funded entirely by donations. Many jurisdictions don’t have the budget to pay for technical tools, or have dedicated human trafficking units. Those are the clients Caltagirone wants to target first.
“Trafficking victims have already had their lives destroyed, and they’ve already had people make ungodly sums of money off their exploitation,” she said. “We say the buck, literally, stops here.”