Startups tackle human trafficking
On September 18-20 about 80 people gathered in Tallinn to develop technologies in the fight against human trafficking. The winner of the hackathon is a tool that scans online ads to find potentially suspicious job offers that could lead to human trafficking.
The 48-hour Trafficking in Persons hachathlon was organized by Garage48 in cooperation with the US Embassy in Tallinn. The humanitarian event drew 60 participants from Estonia, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, the US, Russia, Armenia, the UK, and Ukraine, who worked under the guidance of 12 experienced design, technical and human trafficking expert mentors.
By the end of Sunday evening six working prototypes were delivered, which will benefit the victims of human trafficking, for prevention of such cases in first hand and to assist those who will go to work abroad.
The projects include online communities, where victims can rate their previous employees to other job seekers or victims could share their stories, a game to educate children of the dangers of human trafficking, and a website where you could securely store a copy of your travel documents in case they were taken from you or lost.
The winner of the hackathlon, THATO, created a platform with investigative tools to help NGOs find and analyse advertisements that are evidence of trafficking. Their first program is designed to collect information of vulnerable persons whose services are being advertised on social media sites and create a database so NGOs can act on this information. The second aim is to teach a program to recognise job adverts from traffickers, aimed at recruiting victims, that have been copy-and-pasted onto social media sites.
Nora Dempsey, Senior Advisor for Innovation at the Office of e-Diplomacy at the US Department of State, was very impressed by Garage48’s ability to gather experts from IT to social sciences. “There was a really diverse group of experts with a regional representation, which works very well if we want to produce products that really are needed,” she said.
The teams are hopeful that their products will receive further development support and use. A representative from the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs already expressed interest in piloting the Safe Box solution of cloud-based storage of travel documents, while the Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs said they will be using JobTraffick in the future.