British Royal, US Ambassador Say Tech, Blockchain Can Help Fight Human Trafficking

Dignitaries and experts at a conference in Vienna noted the potential of new tech like blockchain in fighting human trafficking.

Princess Eugenie of the United Kingdom and United States anti-human trafficking Ambassador John Richmond recently spoke in favor of using new technology like phone apps and blockchain to address human trafficking, Reuters reports on April 8.

At a conference in Vienna, Austria hosted by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), experts noted that increased internet usage has expanded the ability of traffickers to exploit potential targets.

However, Princess Eugenie — the granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth — reportedly noted that technology could also help fight trafficking. Eugenie, who founded the Anti-Slavery Collective in Britain in 2017, said:

“I have learned about how blockchain is having a huge impact on supply chain management, and how an app in Britain can help the public report modern slavery at car washes.”

Eugenie was referring to an initiative by Coca Cola and the U.S. Department of State, and the Safe Car Wash App. The former began in March 2018, and aims to use blockchain technology to create a secure worker registry. The partnership aims to address the problem of forced labor by using blockchain’s validation and digital notary capabilities to create a secure registry for workers and their contracts.

The Safe Car Wash App recently found nearly 1,000 cases of slave labor at car washes in the U.K. The app was launched by the Church of England  and the Catholic Church in England and Wales last June, and allows users to enter their location and enter various indicators of the presence of slave labor, such as whether the establishment only accepts cash, or workers seem fearful.

Citing the Global Slavery Index by human rights group Walk Free Foundation, Reuters reports that there are 136,000 slave laborers in the U.K., which is 10 times higher than in 2013.

Anti-human trafficking Ambassador Richmond noted that technology itself cannot stop human trafficking, saying, “There is not an algorithm or app that is going to stop human trafficking.” Richmond did note however:

“But there are tech tools that can help people to do their job better. This is the slow, grinding, day-in, day-out work that can help make a difference.”

Earlier this year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would form a commission to study how cryptocurrencies and online marketplaces can be used to facilitate sex and drug trafficking.

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