Huffington Post | How Polaris Project is Using Technology to Disrupt Human Traffickers
Below is an except from journalist and author Stephanie Hepburn's column in the Huffington Post:
...As technology becomes more sophisticated, says Jennifer Kimball, Polaris Director of Data Analysis, so too do traffickers in finding ways to use it to help them recruit victims, sell victims, and hide from authorities. At the same time, says Kimball, technology is one of the best means for victims to reach out for help. For example, a trafficker may frequently monitor a victim’s phone but then not examine his/her social media accounts. “Sometimes traffickers heavily monitor Facebook and it isn’t a safe way for a victim to communicate,” says Kimball. “In other cases Facebook is the one space traffickers don’t control and victims are able to reach out to family for help or post on his/her wall. It really does vary and it’s important that there are a wide variety of options available for them to reach help, so that victims can select what is safest.” It’s these monitoring gaps that Polaris Project, which runs the United States’ National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC), is trying to use to find and aid victims, disrupt traffickers, and, through innovative partnerships with Silicon Valley, the non-governmental organization (NGO) is also tracking and mapping trafficking data.
Polaris is constantly amending their approach to include the newest influx of popular technology. At present there is a proliferation of apps that are changing the technology terrain and how we communicate, but what remains the most used form of communication is text messaging. For victims, making a phone call can be far more dangerous than sending a text message. “People who are trafficked are closely monitored and may not be able to speak to someone on the phone, but they may be able to silently send a text message,” says Kimball. “We didn’t want that to be a barrier to people reaching help. There are already enough barriers."
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