Using Data to Fight Slavery

Fighting human trafficking is not just about infiltrating criminal networks and catching criminals in flashy stings. It also requires using the power of information to reveal how and where traffickers are operating. Emily Kennedy, creator of Traffic Jam and founder of the anti-trafficking tech startup Marinus, is doing just that, and she’s getting impressive results.

Vice news featured Kennedy on Broadly, its women’s interest channel. Her dedication to combating sex trafficking started in junior high when she immersed herself in studying the crime. In college she created software to analyze data to determine where traffickers operate online for her honors project.

The software, later dubbed Traffic Jam, analyzed data from sex-related posts over time to identify pimps’ patterns of behavior, geographic locations, and who their victims were. This data enabled law enforcement to act more efficiently and effectively.

From her small beginnings in the Carnegie Mellon University Auton Lab, Kennedy built her data-driven approach into a respected analytical firm called Marinus. Four years in, Kennedy proudly provides services to law enforcement officials, lawmakers, and NGOs, including International Justice Mission, DARPA, and the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps Program. Marinus claims to have aided in the recovery of more than 100 trafficking victims. Her approach is working.

As part of our efforts to dismantle the business of human trafficking, Human Rights First advocates for improvements to data collection. For example, we call on the Justice Department’s Enhanced Collaborative Model Task Forces and other government groups to share data on performance measures. We also urge Congress to provide more funding to the DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP) to create consistent data reporting.


Published on October 23, 2015


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