This Anti-Sex Trafficking App Needs Your Hotel Photos To Fight The Problem
Sex trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes, just like Law & Order: SVU says. It’s also really hard to track down those sleazy animals, which is why this new app that helps catch sex traffickers simply by taking pictures is so fucking cool. Law enforcement often go to meeting and event planners to help identify hotel rooms where videos and images of children and exploited women are taken in order to catch the criminals. If you think about it, it makes total sense — event planners that organize conferences all over the world know their shit, and all they do is stay in and book hotels (aside from lots of other important things that go into throwing a get-together, of course). Molly Hackett of Nix Conference and Meeting Management got the idea for the app after being asked to help in an investigation.
It’s actually a pretty simple concept. Hackett and a colleague, Kimberly Ritter, founded the Exchange Initiative that helps promote awareness and fight sex trafficking, and they recently created the TraffickCam app that allows people to take just four pictures of their hotel rooms when they travel and upload them to the app, which is already available on iOS, Android, and on the web.
The photos can then serve as a database for law enforcement to match their evidence to various hotel rooms, since most criminals post pictures of women and children taken in hotel rooms for online ads. You don’t have to do anything more than that, which is amazing, because when it comes to sex trafficking, there’s often so little for people to actually do besides donate money to organizations that advocate for victims or raise awareness. It’s not often that regular people get a chance to do some actual fucking good with their smartphones.
Abby Stylianou,, who helped develop the app with the Nix event planners told The Daily Dot, “This works really nicely for hotel rooms where you might have a piece of art that’s the same piece of art even if the walls are panted a different color and there’s a different cover on the bed. We can pick up on these things that are similar.” The app cross-references rooms by location and is sensitive enough to pick up on minor characteristics. In all of my years on the internet, this is probably one of the most beneficial uses of photo technology and databases I’ve come across. Seriously.
According to UNICEF, there are about 21 million people worldwide and 150,000 in the U.S. alone that are trafficked for sex work and other illegal activities, like child labor. If a free app and four pictures can save even some of those victims, that’s a huge fucking deal. So the next time you travel, download the app. It’s too simple not to.