She was very young, about 16 years old, a sheltered teenager not aware of sex trafficking. On her trip to Macedonia, Emily Kennedy was surprised and caught off guard as she couldn’t understand the habit of children cleaning the car she was in after it stopped at a stoplight. A friend whispered to her that if the children couldn’t make enough money back home they were prone to punishment. She said all this on Friday while on stage during a Women world event, which is an event happening live annually, held in New York City.
This problem ate her up as she studied humanities at Carnegie Mellon University, thinking of how she can achieve in law school. She graduated in 2012, by then working on her senior thesis. Emily Kennedy met and connected with few machine learning experts and engineers at the university who designed a complex solver technology, such as detection of epidemic and safety of food.
This was the great fulfilment composed of coordination, working together to come up with an idea that would benefit human trafficking victims. Kennedy’s idea was echoed with great excitement as she figured out the manipulation of the software to invent a new thing, about using online data to fight human trafficking.
The invented software was a Traffic Jam Software. This software works by crawling/trawling online advertisements e.g. sex, which happens to be another set of human trafficking. Amazingly, some of them containing photos, which she noted. Also used facial recognition tools from Amazon web services, which she said worked better than any other facial recognition software she had tried before. She said no reason to reinvent the wheel as the software was able to match victim’s photo from ads of missing persons and social media as it crawls to find these possible suspects that appear online.
The recent legislation shut down the backpage.com, which happened to be the biggest site for sex work. Kennedy says despite its closure, the human traffickers will still be able to find a new place to post their ads, its only the matter of time. This is totally tricky because the human traffickers move their victims from city to city to avoid being captured.
“This is where technology comes in,” she says. “Actually going through thousands of ads is hectic for a person to finish.”
“The data itself is pathetic,” she says. “Through the detectives trying to analyze misspells on how they can distinguish posts of human trafficking in their ads, Kennedy’s company, Marinus Analytics, has been working hard on ads gathering since 2011. The company has other image processing tools like image similarity search, this is where the detectives are able to upload a victims photo in a hotel procured and try to see if there are other victim’s photos in the same hotel. So, the software will be able to point out if only the traffickers will keep on coming in the same hotel room,” she said.
Her company, Marinus, started in 2014 is extremely careful with broker partners like law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and a few non-profits, as it is aware of the software’s powerful capabilities and the possibilities of abuse. The software is 88% successful as it has already rescued a good number of victims through data crawling from traffic jams in U.S and Canada.
Despite the numbered attempts to set the records in place, human trafficking statistics have been neglected. The media commonly continue to use outdated statistics, as proven by researchers. So Kennedy was urging them to stop with the old, and emerge in a recent real world to cope with this situation. She said most data from her software has debunked the nature of victims being taken from events like Super Bowl. “Without it, the chances increase significantly in events such as CES, Oracle conference, and the Daytoner500,” She says.
Being 27, Kennedy is now trying to figure out how traffic jam can be effective. Her software is now crawling 18 countries, and in the future, will extend to the UK and beyond. In predictive policy, Emily Kennedy and the team are planning to apply it to cub gun sale and illegal drugs.
Emily Kennedy was awarded the 2018 Mother of Invention grant from Toyota, women sponsor in the world summit. An amazing award representing the limitless strength of a woman. As proven, beings capable all things. #Rewordit