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Google tech aids human trafficking hotlines

WASHINGTON--Sex workers are more likely to call in to a hotline for victims of human trafficking on a Wednesday, and a Google-backed initiative announced Tuesday could help to explain why.

The Internet search giant is giving a total of US$3 million to three groups in Europe, Asia and the United States combating modern-day slavery to help them share and analyze the mountains of data that grows out of their frontline work.

“There are a lot of different hotlines that exist around the world, but they're completely disconnected,” Jared Cohen, the head of Google's in-house think tank Google Ideas, told AFP.

“The data is not integrated across all of them,” he said. “If you call one hotline, it doesn't necessarily feed into an integrated system that meshes with all the others.”

Sharing the Google funding will be La Strada International, based in Amsterdam but focused on central and eastern Europe; Hong Kong-based Liberty Asia; and the Polaris Project that covers the United States.

The initiative was unveiled at Google's offices in Washington, where a few hours earlier the White House published what it called a Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking.

Open for public comment until May 24, the 61-page document comes three years after the Department of Homeland Security launched a so-called “Blue Campaign” to cut across bureaucratic lines in a bid to address human trafficking.

In a statement online, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that in 2012 alone, the U.S. authorities “investigated a historic amount of cases and rescued more victims of human trafficking.”

They also, she said, “provided support to over 1,200 human trafficking victims ... Working together, we can take comprehensive action to stop this terrible crime, rescue victims, and put perpetrators behind bars.”

Worldwide, human trafficking is responsible for enslaving nearly 21 million people, from sex workers to manual laborers to street beggars, in an illicit trade that generates an estimated US$32 billion a year, Cohen said.

“Bringing all the data together illuminates certain patterns and questions that one might not otherwise see without looking at holistically,” Cohen said.

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Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas, makes an announcement about technology's role in aiding anti-trafficking efforts at Google's Washington, D.C. headquarters Tuesday, April 9. Google is announcing a US$3 million gift to three nonprofits working to use technology and data to combat human trafficking worldwide. On Tuesday

(AFP)

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