Inside GEN, the nonprofit combatting human trafficking with big data Credit: Christina Morillo GamOICreative Commons
Business Management

Inside GEN, the nonprofit combatting human trafficking with big data

The vast majority of law enforcement agencies are woefully underfunded for tackling human trafficking, which according to statistics from the Global Emancipation Network (GEN) claims roughly 21 million men, women and children as victims every year, who between them are worth as much as $50 billion to organised crime.

Law enforcement agencies have traditionally been hindered by painstaking and mentally arduous manual methods that take their toll on investigators, who are also at risk of becoming locked into for-profit solutions that are limited in their scope. They are struggling to keep pace with the worldwide networks that trade in human beings, which are shockingly open in their advertisements.

Sherrie Caltagirone is founder and executive director of the Global Emancipation Network. She has a career-long record in combatting trafficking, having previously held legislative and other advisory posts to help governments and NGOs bolster their policy approaches in countering the crimes.

But she wanted to measure the actual impact that these efforts had. After some time working at a rescue operation group then called Orphan Secure - with partners in the cyber intelligence space such as FireEye - she began to wonder why the cutting-edge techniques used in other intel fields were not being deployed to fight trafficking.

"I was doing all of the policy and intelligence work for their operations [at Orphan Secure]," she says, speaking with Computerworld UK. "They were obviously using a lot of cyber intelligence tools. On a more personal note, my husband comes from the intelligence community more broadly - so I was aware of these other methods for joining these different data points and making sense of the noise.

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