Ending Sex Trafficking? There’s an App for That

You can join the fight against sex trafficking just by uploading a picture.

Nowadays, there isn’t much we can’t do with our cell phones. Modern technology has enabled us to order food, book vacations, call a private driver… and even help rescue victims of sex trafficking.

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TraffickCam is a free app launched in June 2016. It was developed by Exchange Initiative, a group devoted to “empower[ing] people and organizations with resources, knowledge and networks to help fight sex trafficking.”

In 2016, the International Labor Organizationestimated that there were around 40.3 million victims of human trafficking around the world. That number has barely changed.

As a method of advertising, pimps and sex traffickers will post photos of their victims posing provocatively on hotel and motel room beds. TraffickCam can help law enforcement agencies locate victims and their perpetrators by analyzing the photographs of hotel rooms taken and uploaded by users of the app.

TraffickCam asks users to turn on their phone’s GPS and follow prompts provided by the app to take photos of their rooms and upload them to the database. According to Exchange Initiative, the app has been downloaded more than 120,000 times, and the database includes over 157,000 hotels and nearly 3 million photos.

Users need not worry about their own privacy when using the app, as TraffickCam does not store any personal information besides the GPS location in order to locate the hotel. Hotels are also able to upload photos themselves.

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The image analysis tools that the app uses take note of a number of identifiable features in the rooms such as carpet pattern, wall art, landmarks outside the windows, and more. Law enforcement officers are then able to compare trafficking adverts with the photos in the app’s database to try to locate the victims and crack down on the offenders.

“This is an easy way for citizens to take a stand against sex trafficking,” Kimberly Ritter, director of development at Exchange Initiative, told CNN. “The more of us that join together to fight this crime, the better the opportunity we have to eradicate it.”

As of now, the app is only available in the United States, but Exchange Initiative is looking to expand internationally if TraffickCam proves to be a success.

TraffickCam’s mobile app is available on Android and iOS devices. Those without a smartphone can still participate by going onto TraffickCam.com.