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  /  Analytics   /  How Data Analytics Can Help Counter Human Trafficking
human trafficking data analytics

How Data Analytics Can Help Counter Human Trafficking

Is Data Analytics a secret weapon to combat the social problem of Human Trafficking?


Human trafficking is one of the most harrowing crimes in the world today. According to a 2017 study by the International Labor Organization, this problem victimizes an estimated 40.3 million people worldwide, mostly women and children. Many industrialized cities are serving as hotbeds of this criminal activity as they make enormous illegal money made every year through human trafficking. With technology seeping into every sector, the traffickers misuse the internet to advertise and maintain criminal enterprises. Though finding the missing person, tracking them and understanding the complex web of human trafficking is no easy task, data analytics can help find victims and stop traffickers.

Trafficking, including commercial sex trafficking, was not internationally recognized as a distinct crime until Nov. 15, 2000, when the Palermo Protocol was drafted at the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime. Since then, awareness against trafficking has increased steadily around the world. It has been found out that generally, the victims of human trafficking are forced into slavery as sex workers, beggars, drug dealers and child laborers or soldiers, or as domestic workers, factory workers and laborers in agriculture, manufacturing, construction, mining, commercial fishing and other industries. They may also become victims of organ racketing.

Data Analytics To Save the Day

Data analytics has already shown its merit in helping organizations address social issues like combating the opioid epidemic, improve high school graduation rates, prevent credit fraud, and many other areas of concern. Since trafficking often begins with fraudulent recruitment methods, such as promises of employment or romance, data analytics can help identify specific economically depressed areas, where one can deploy awareness campaigns and social service support. Today, law enforcement agencies, nonprofits institutions are working to prevent human trafficking by understanding how the traffickers work and how to block their efforts.

One such institute in India is My Choices Foundation, a nonprofit organization based that leverages Big Data analytics to help alleviate the dangers of human trafficking. Operation Red Alert, a My Choices Foundation program, first priority was to determine which areas were most at risk to prioritize their education efforts among parents, teachers, village leaders, and children about trafficking. Australian analytics firm Quantium developed a solution that analyzes India’s census data, government education data and other sources for factors such as drought, poverty level, proximity to transportation stations, educational opportunities, population, and distance to police stations to identify the villages and towns that are most at risk of human trafficking.

Quantium relies on Cisco UCS to gain centralized management and the computing power needed to process complex algorithms in a dense, scalable form factor that also reduces power consumption. It also uses the MapR Converged Data Platform that enables organizations to create intelligent applications that fully integrate analytics with operational processes in real-time. The MapR Platform provides the multi-tenancy, high-speed performance, and scale needed to power the Operation Red Alert data platform. By the first half of 2017, Red Alert had 40 NGO partners who have helped conduct the Safe Village education program in 600 villages throughout four states in India, reaching over 600,000 villagers.

Next, we have Traffik Analysis Hub (TA Hub) program, an impactful collaboration across multiple sectors united by a common goal of preventing human trafficking and its damage to humanity. Traffik Analysis Hub deploys IBM i2 software which leverages machine learning and augmented intelligence to recognize terms and incidents related to exchanges between the human trafficking groups.

The Traffik Analysis Hub is hosted by IBM’s cloud services and is accessible to coalition members. The coalition members include the anti-slavery group STOP THE TRAFFIK , IBM, telecommunications company Liberty Global, British banks Barclays and Lloyds, Europol, financial services company Western Union, and the University College London.

Though the scourge of human trafficking exists in every nation, tracing activities related to this crime has become trickier recently. For instance, traffickers use an alias to shield themselves from getting caught easily or use outlets like massage parlors as fronts for trafficking based operations like prostitution. To curb this, Polaris, a Washington DC nonprofit group that runs the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline, leverages network analysis to reveal the criminal structure behind illicit massage businesses.  Network analysis can map out the dynamics of traffickers and their connections embedded in social networking sites, like Facebook and Twitter. This can identify at-risk persons, traffickers and customers. By 2015, Polaris had exposed around 6,500 networks of illicit massage businesses in most major cities across the USA.


Today, while human trafficking still remains a multi-million dollar black market business, data analytics has helped lawmakers and enforcers identify the hotspots and distribution of victims, traffickers, buyers and exploiters, and disrupt the supply chain. Analytics tools can also help in determining where to best allocate resources and locate shelters for victims. Even financial institutions can use data analytics tools like transaction monitoring software to detect specific signs of trafficking and the risk level of particular transactions and accounts with unusual customer behavior. With rapid progressions made in advanced analytics technologies, one day, we will be able to defeat this illegal industry that threatens humanity and human rights.