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How We Use Technology to Fight Human Trafficking

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Even if you know about human trafficking, the logistics of how this multi-billion dollar illegal industry actually functions are probably at least a little fuzzy. Sex trafficking isn’t something we often witness in front of us, or even see on the news very often. We hear about it in broad strokes. And when we don’t understand how something happens, it’s easy to see it as a distant problem — hardly real.

Although in many ways it’s true that sex trafficking is a hidden crime, the problem — and its solution — don’t need to remain fuzzy. There is a way to break into the dark hiding places where children are bought and sold. It’s called cyber operations. With our advanced technology systems, we are able to scrape the internet for data and evidence of human trafficking.

At The Exodus Road, cyber operations consist of cyber investigations and team management. At our Cyber Operations Center in Colorado, our data analyst manages these operations full-time. Although the inner workings of these systems are complicated, all of our cyber operations boil down to one simple purpose: quickly and efficiently uncovering human trafficking so we can stop it.

Cyber Investigations

Cyber investigations are similar to field investigations; both are the gathering of evidence of human trafficking. The difference is in the methods. Our cyber investigations technology is comprised of data scraping tools that pull information from the internet that would otherwise be inaccessible. We can pull the location, phone, email, and other personal information associated with online sex ads.

With data pulled from the internet, we can identify traffickers’ selling patterns and collect evidence of exploitation.

By mapping data like how long traffickers have been posting ads, how many girls they are selling, where they sell and how often they move locations, we can build overwhelming cases of evidence to hand to police for coordinating a sting operation.

At our Cyber Operations Center, we also have facial recognition capability and data extraction tools, which will work together to fight human trafficking, case by case.

With data extraction, we can pull key information from trafficker's phones, tablets, or computer, in support of local law enforcement partners. By retrieving contacts, photos, messages, logins, search history, and even deleted data from devices, we help police gather vital information for disrupting larger crime networks.

We have a strong partnership with the leading mobile forensic company, Cellebrite, and are using their technology in multiple countries to help local authorities. Often, the law enforcement agencies we work with -- espeically overseas-- either lack this technology, the licenses to use it, or the trained personnel. We are able to support police by supplying the technology and the manpower at no charge to them.

"We can collect in 30 seconds the information that would take several months traditionally,” says Kevin Campbell, The Exodus Road’s VP of Global Operations. “The purpose is to build a powerful, complete case that we can hand to police."

Team Management

Although cyber investigations are primarily focused on activity happening online, we also use our Cyber Operations Center to support our teams of investigators who are working in the field. Our team management system provides accountability and security for our operatives, along with the ability to see evidence in real time. This helps us to mobilize more quickly and even give police the opportunity to observe illegal activity in progress.

With this software, we can monitor our operatives’ locations within one meter, anywhere in the world. We can view footage recording from their covert devices in real time or after an investigation. Using geofencing, we can flag areas of interest and receive notifications whenever an operative enters or exits the area.

Taking the fight online

With this center — containing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of purchased and donated technology — we are shining a floodlight into traffickers’ hiding places. Human trafficking may be a complicated problem, but it doesn’t have to be a hidden one. With technology and strategy, we're fighting the darkness of slavery effectively for this modern age.