A social activism group is attempting to fight human trafficking by encouraging smartphone users to upload photos of hotel rooms to a national law enforcement database.
Exchange Initiative, a St. Louis-based social action organization, is trying to bring awareness to the issue of human trafficking. The group issued a press release today outlining how travelers can help combat sex trafficking through the use of their TraffickCam app. Today, Jan. 11, is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, and the month of January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
Users of the app are encouraged to take photos of any hotel and motel rooms that they are staying in. These photos are then sent to a national database used by law enforcement, who then analyze the photos to help locate victims of human trafficking, the organization wrote in a press release.
“Everyone who travels on vacation or business can make a real difference in the fight (against) sex trafficking by using TraffickCam to upload photos of their hotel and motel rooms,” Exchange Initiative Principal Molly Hackett said.
The photos taken through the app captures the features of a room — including carpeting, furniture, accessories and the views through windows. These features are then checked against photos advertising sex trafficking victims. The app doesn’t store any personally identifiable information other than the photo’s GPS location, and any photos with people in them are rejected by the app.
Since launching in mid-2016, users of the app have uploaded close to 100,000 photos to the already existing database of photos. More than 150,000 individual hotels are now included in that database. The app has been downloaded around 100,000 times, the group said.
Despite being criminalized across the globe, sex trafficking involving women and children is reportedly one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises, according to EqualityNow. In a 2012 report, the International Labour Organization estimated that nearly 21 million adults and children were victims of forced labor or sexual servitude. Similarly, UNICEF reports that 5.5 million children are trafficked each year.