Founder and Executive Director, Global Emancipation Network
Data to Decisions
Global Emancipation Network (GEN) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to eradicating human trafficking with weapons not yet used properly in the fight: data and analytics. GEN serves as the hub for collecting and analyzing trafficking data, facilitating communications and technology-sharing initiatives between anti-trafficking stakeholders worldwide. This includes labor, sex and wildlife trafficking, forced adoptions, forced marriages, child soldiering and domestic servitude.
With Splunk as the engine, GEN brings together siloed data from tens of thousands of nonprofit organizations into a singular platform. GEN makes this data available free of charge for users and leverages it to better predict where victims go, what routes are commonly taken and who is likely moving the victims.
Approximately 45 million people are trafficked each year across the globe, generating an estimated $50 billion for traffickers. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that internationally, fewer than 50,000 of these victims are identified and rescued.
“Trafficking is a human tragedy, but it’s also an illicit economy where someone buys a product to meet a demand like sex or domestic servitude, and each transaction often has a digital footprint,” notes Sherrie Caltagirone. Like many other criminal enterprises, traffickers are reliant on Internet-based applications to find and groom victims, organize transportation and advertise their victims’ services. Recognizing that this reliance was their weakness, the problem quickly became a data problem. However, majority of the daily battles nonprofits face are about accessing this data to stop it.
There are currently thousands of nonprofit organizations around the world, both private and public, dedicated to countering human trafficking. Unfortunately, with every organization focused on different parts of the problem and working in different systems, the data collected by each is siloed, putting a halt to valuable information sharing.
GEN identified this problem early on – unless organizations have a way to properly analyze and consume vast amounts and types of data, being able to sort through and search for patterns, then the data is of no value.
Together, GEN and Splunk’s social giving program, Splunk for Good, developed Minerva — a multi-tenant data analytics platform that enables secure, individualized data sharing and intelligent analytics. This powerful platform uses Splunk to take messy, unstructured and siloed data from hundreds of sources to make connections between usernames, email addresses, phone numbers, text and images that would be difficult or even impossible to do manually.
With Minerva, GEN is able to enrich this data with public records, open web searches and image analysis tools to find victims, prosecute perpetrators and stop trafficking in its tracks. The data is available free of charge to GEN’s users, which include national and international government and law enforcement agencies, NGOs, academia and the private sector so they can combine it with their own specialized datasets. Minerva is accessible to any organization with a valid counter-trafficking mission.
GEN has a huge impact on countering human trafficking around the world — from proactively preventing crimes to driving change in overlooked industries. A few tangible examples of GEN’s impact:
– When a U.S. massage chain received negative publicity around sexual misconduct and human trafficking, the organization approached GEN to help identify potential risks. GEN analyzed data related to employee screenings and monitored customers looking for sexual services. GEN then used Splunk to analyze millions of data points from over 22,000 massage businesses, helping curb the illicit massage industry on a larger scale.
– In the UK, law enforcement agencies gather large numbers of child abuse images — sometimes 20 per week — that often show a child in school uniform. With more than 55,000 schools across Northern Ireland, England and Wales, matching a uniform to a school is very difficult. Using Splunk, GEN has provided agencies with a suite of tools that accelerates investigations by pinpointing which school is represented in an image within minutes.
– GEN is recruitming companies, advertisers, private mailbox providers, landlords and training organizations to show how criminals hijack their services for trafficking.
– For a preventive approach, GEN launched a program called Artemis with partner Accenture, to help massage businesses and hotels identify risk and vulnerabilities before a crime is committed.
As a result of GEN’s continued dedication to combating human-trafficking, in the past year alone Sherrie Caltagirone and her team have:
– Collected and analyzed over 230 million trafficking events through Splunk.
– Analyzed and assigned human trafficking risk scores to hundreds of thousands of massage businesses and therapists resulting in over 10,000 identifications of human trafficking activity.
– Received grant awards of more than $1.5 million for GEN projects and research.
– Assisted in 7 human trafficking raids and rescues resulting in dozens of rescued individuals.
– Created an international human trafficking organization database with thousands of organizations highlighted.
– Spoke to cumulative audiences of over 17,000 on human trafficking and GEN’s mission around the world, including audience members such as President Barack Obama and HRH Princess Eugenie of the UK.
– Worked with dozens of students at different universities and mentored several additional students as GEN staff.
When it was founded in 2016, GEN selected Splunk as its data platform. Minerva is powered by Splunk Enterprise, allowing it to investigate, monitor, analyze and act on millions of trafficking-related data in real-time. GEN was given free access to Splunk licenses, training, support and education through the Splunk for Good program.
Using Splunk and other third-party technologies, Minerva protects information and monitors usage patterns to keep user information private, safe and secure.
While reading this nomination, around 80 people in the world will become victims of human trafficking. Before GEN was established, the number of trafficking victims was even more skewed. Collaborating with external corporations initially resulted in educational barriers and hesitations around sharing large data sets. GEN had to convince stakeholders that data sharing could occur securely and responsibly within existing policies and legal frameworks.
In addition, there were a number of internal roadblocks that GEN needed to overcome:
– Retaining volunteers: GEN is almost entirely staffed by volunteers. When volunteers’ day jobs ramp up or other things take the majority of their focus, projects can come to a standstill.
– COVID-19: To help adapt to COVID-19, GEN created new processes and diversified their loaned engineers and volunteers to avoid being significantly impacted during times with high fluctuation amongst volunteers.
– Technology barriers: GEN had to help counter-trafficking stakeholders understand the technology in order to share and analyze it in a meaningful way. There was an initial technology barrier around data sharing and cloud storage.
By overcoming these challenges, Sherrie Caltagirone and her team have completely reshaped the way that nonprofit organizations in the human-trafficking space function, while also impacting the nonprofit industry’s relationship with technology and data as a whole.
One of GEN’s greatest achievements is being a force for change and making a tangible impact across the world. The organization has broken down resistance to sharing data across stakeholders and has helped develop several anti-trafficking laws, such as Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act and Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act. With Splunk at the hub and Caltagirone at the helm, GEN is nearing a future that’s brighter, safer and free of human trafficking.
About Global Emancipation Network
Global Emancipation Network employs cutting-edge data analytics to disrupt human trafficking operations, embark on effective rescue campaigns, inform domestic and international policy, and restore the victims of modern-day slavery to dignity.