The social action organization Exchange Initiative is encouraging travelers to help fight sex trafficking during January, National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, by uploading hotel room photos to the free TraffickCam mobile app. Today, January 11 is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Photos uploaded with the TraffickCam app are anonymously added to a national database used by law enforcement and investigators to locate victims and their pimps.
More than 102,000 apps have been downloaded since TraffickCam was launched in the summer of 2016. Stories and posts about the app have generated more than 35 million Twitter impressions and have been shared countless times on Facebook. The public has uploaded nearly 100,000 photos to a database of 1.5 million publicly available hotel room photos preloaded by the developers. More than 150,000 hotels are now represented in the database.
TraffickCam captures room features such as carpeting patterns, furniture, accessories and views outside the windows, which can be matched by law enforcement against photos advertising sex trafficking victims posed in hotel rooms. TraffickCam does not store any personally identifying information other than the phone’s GPS location, and any images including people are rejected.
Sex trafficking is a form of modern day slavery that forces children and adults to engage in commercial sex acts against their will. Young victims are coerced into the sex trade through fraud, drugs, force, debt bondage and intimidation at an average age of 12 to 14. According to UNICEF, 5.5 million children worldwide are trafficked each year.