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How is IBM’s Watson fighting against human trafficking?

Human trafficking is a massive, $150 billion illegal global industry — more profitable than drugs or white collar crime. It exploits more than 40 million people worldwide, according to the International Labor Organization.

Victims cut across the lines of gender, age and industry — children and adults; men, women and transpeople all harbored within sectors of agriculture, prostitution, hospitality and manufacturing.

About 50,000 people are trafficked into the United States each year, most often from Mexico and the Philippines, according to a 2019 report by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. More alarming, the average age of a teen trafficked into sex trade in the U.S. is 12 to 14 years old.

Recently, authorities have begun using smarter, faster and more effective technologies to combat the problem.

In a partnership with STOP THE TRAFFIK, IBM created and operates Traffik Analysis Hub (TA Hub), a pro bono, data bank organized by its Watson Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help share information about human trafficking with agencies across the globe.

Within the TA Hub, analysts gather data from financial services companies, nongovernmental organizations and law enforcement around the world. Then they use Watson Discovery to organize and trace activity around the globe.

A suspicious financial deposit? The TA Hub flags it. Multiple missing persons reports from a specific region? The TA Hub is on it.

“What’s also key here is the collaboration of public, private, and not-for-profit sectors — addressing the issue together, says Guillermo Miranda, Global Head of IBM Corporate Social Responsibility.

“They’re telling us that the shared knowledge and the intelligence form the Traffik Analysis Hub will enable them to make real progress in addressing human trafficking.”

The commercial value of the TA Hub has been about $1 million to date. 

It’s already being lauded by anti-trafficking groups as a vital tool in this massive global battle, although details haven’t been divulged, given the sensitivity of the investigations.