Coding against Sex Trafficking

August 14, 2019

– Police show me your hands.
– Police, go, go, go. – Put your hands like that. – Human Trafficking is
a problem that affects pretty much every region in the world, anywhere that they are people this is something that is happening. (emotional music) Traffickers are finding new ways to take advantage of the Internet. Advertising their traffic victims, online. (emotional music) As someone who does research
in computer security. I saw this as an opportunity. (tense music) (phone typing sound) The goal of my work is to build
tools to help investigators find victims of human trafficking. I’m running code that will
be able to take groups of ads and say whether or not these ads are connected to each other. A trafficker posting
advertisements about the girls that he is in charge of. He would want to disguise
that information somehow so that any of the girls
don’t appear to be minors. That these are all independent
people working separately. To that end you have
traffickers using burning phones as the contact information. You know obviously you
can switch email addresses with very little cost. Doing things like that in order to try and minimize the connection
between these ads. (curious music) The other main thrusts that
we had in grouping these ads together was trying to
find the bitcoin wallets, that were used to pay for particular ads. (curious music) If we’re able to say, hey
these 50 ads that previously did not appear to be
connected were all paid for by the same wallet, we now
have a very strong definitive link connecting these ads together. Several of the wallets
that we’ve found spend, you know 50,000, 60,000
even up to $100,000 in just four weeks on paying of these ads. And that was shocking
to see all of that money going in this direction. I first got introduced to the
problem of human trafficking my senior year of college. My sister recommended to me
a book called Half The Sky. That details some of the
human rights abuses against woman across the world. I was quite inspired and
I really wanted to see whether or not there were
something in the work that I did, that could contribute to this effort. Looking through these ads
can be quite difficult. There’s at least several
thousand new ads that appear per day depending on
the region that it’s posted. One of the hopes that I have in this work is that this will help law enforcement, filter and prioritize ads. Not just minimize the amount of time it takes to do an investigation. But also helping them in some of the more psychologically difficult
elements of this work. Specifically minimize
the amount of content that they have to be looking at. (curious music) – There’s other a
misconception about technology. That is some way it is the
generator of some evil. I see technology as simply a tool. A tool without will. The will, is the user of that technology. – This kind of work can
often be an arms race. Each time there’s new technology developed someone is using it for ill, and then someone else has
to find a way to kind of, beat that out to use it for. I’m really glad to be a part of it.

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