Crime / Law

Tech heavyweights take on human trafficking with big data

Palantir Technologies, Google Inc. and other Silicon Valley companies are implementing digital tools to combat human trafficking, a scourge that’s been amplified by social media and mobile technologies invented here.
Data analysis, image recognition and mapping programs are helping anti-trafficking nonprofits not only locate victims in real time, but predict their victimizers’ next moves. Going into 2014, the companies and their partners are exploring how to share information to develop global prevention strategies based on traffickers’ behaviors.
Palantir’s software, which sifts volumes of unrelated data for meaningful connections, is key to many of those efforts, including speedy response to victims who call hotlines. It instantly pulls information from disparate sources such as license plate numbers, online ads and cellphone records to locate trafficking victims and connect them with help.
“If that link up to the relevant service provider can be made in a minute or two as opposed to five minutes of a search through a file folder or Excel sheet, that window of opportunity may stay open for intervention or close in a very short time,” said Jason Payne, who runs Palo Alto-based Palantir’s philanthropy engineering team.

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