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Microsoft believes that the technologies of today’s “mobile-first, cloud-first” world can be used to help disrupt the global scourge of human trafficking, which has ensnared more than 25 million of the world’s most vulnerable people. Technology can not only make law enforcement more efficient, it can be used to educate those at risk and their families, and can disrupt criminal operations by increasing the risk and reducing the rewards of their activities.

As a responsible global corporate citizen, Microsoft recognizes its role in furthering respect for human rights and aiding in the fight against human trafficking. We are a member of the Global Business Coalition Against Trafficking and cooperate with other efforts, including offering the Microsoft Azure cloud as a platform to provide an Intelligence Management Solution (IMS) with our partners for this battle.

Predators use the anonymity of the Internet to exploit vulnerable populations, joining online communities to entice and entrap children and young adults. Microsoft provides information and resources on its public facing web sites, offering young students, teachers and parents educational material on avoiding child predators online. We are also committed to investing in research and in government and industry partnerships to help understand the role of technology in combating human trafficking. We have recently sponsored six different research teams in order to create a better understanding of the role of technology in the advertising, sale, and purchase of child trafficking victims.

Microsoft efforts and technologies now being applied to combat trafficking include:

  • The Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit (DCU). This organization of attorneys, investigators, forensic analysts, and business professionals in 30 countries around the world assist law enforcement in combating all types of cybercrime to help create a safer digital world.
  • PhotoDNA. This product of a partnership with Dartmouth College creates a unique fingerprint-like signature for images that can be used to better identify child pornography online and has been donated to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
  • The Child Exploitation Tracking System (CETS).  A software-based solution, developed in collaboration with Canadian law enforcement, which manages and links child protection cases across jurisdictional boundaries worldwide.
  • The Computer Online Forensic Evidence Extractor (COFEE).  This kit helps computer forensic investigators extract digital evidence from any computer using a Windows operating system.
  • The Guardian App. This app leverages mobile technology to provide real time tracking, two-way communication and enhanced situational awareness for those at risk, their families and law enforcement.

The Azure-based Intelligence Management Solution (IMS)

Stopping human trafficking, as well as any other transnational asymmetric threat, requires current, accurate information and the tools to process it. This means gathering, analyzing, disseminating, and archiving information on human trafficking-the standard intelligence “life-cycle.” Existing human-trafficking databases were designed around legacy technology, usually to support prosecution only after an arrest. A robust, easily accessible tool for those on the front lines of combating this global issue is needed.

Entegra Analytics, a valued Microsoft PSNS partner, proposes an IMS based on the Azure public cloud to support the intelligence life cycle for organizations combating human trafficking. The solution is a first step in providing state-of-the-art intelligence management and analysis capabilities. The details of implementing this solution still need to be addressed, but all elements of the solution are feasible in the current technological environment offered by Azure. The hub of this IMS is an adaptation of Entegra Analytics’ FusionCloud. It provides incident management, geospatial intelligence, dissemination management, and auditing. It is an integrated analytical suite capable of natural language processing and link analysis, and has a user query component.

Integrated Intelligence Management Solution to Combat Human Trafficking

Integrated Intelligence Management Solution to Combat Human Trafficking

In today’s threat environment, real-time information sharing is mandatory. A modern-day intelligence agency should be able to access data in an information-sharing network in real time. Data warehousing-periodically downloading, storing, and collating information from external data sources-is a legacy approach. This Azure-based solution offers a cost-effective, extensible platform capable of expanding and adapting to future needs. It will provide a platform for gathering intelligence, analyzing it to make it useful, getting it to the people who need it, and making it available in the future for validating new intelligence. By taking full advantage of mobility, device-independence and ease-of-use, this solution complements existing methods of information gathering and analysis while also providing new capabilities needed today.

Looking Forward

Until recently, there has been only limited cooperation between the anti-trafficking community and the technology community, but passionate and experienced people working today to improve that relationship. Academia and technology companies must work proactively with those combating human trafficking, helping to understand and address how technology is being abused by these criminals, investigating effective techniques for intervention and disruption, and establishing industry best practices and guidance. These best practices include investment in scientific research, enforcement of codes of conduct, outreach to promote awareness of trafficking hotlines and information for victims, as well as increased citizen engagement.

We have only scratched the surface in cooperating to combat the blight of human trafficking. There is an incredible amount of work remaining to understand how technology is being used by traffickers, and how it can be used to defeat them. Microsoft and its partners are committed to supporting law enforcement and humanitarian organizations as they look to incorporating technology to further their efforts in this battle. Increased public awareness, strong public-private partnerships (PPPs) and cooperation across the community of interest must be based on an understanding of the potential impact of innovative technologies and the implications of employing disruptive technology to address human trafficking.

With this in mind, Microsoft, alongside the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations Action for Cooperation against Trafficking in Persons (UN-ACT), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), UN Women and the United States is sponsoring a Regional Conference on Information Communication Technology (ICT) to Combat Human Trafficking in Bangkok, Thailand on 23-24 June 2015 at the Shangri-La Hotel. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is hosting this conference in order to highlight the role that technology can play in current efforts to combat human trafficking and to inspire new approaches to prevention, protection and prosecution of human trafficking.