back to article How AI can help halt human sex trafficking – by identifying victims' hotel rooms from pics

AI is the latest recruit in the ongoing efforts to stamp out the scourge of human trafficking – by helping police figure out which hotels victims are being held. Hundreds of thousands of people are shuttled across borders every year against their will and exploited, most of them young women coerced into prostitution. …

  1. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. Aqua Marina Silver badge

    So traffickers will now start uploading images that have had a blur filter applied to the area around the advertised girl.

    The only problem with telling the world exactly how you're going to catch criminals, is that you're also telling the criminals, who will adjust their behaviour accordingly so as not to get caught.

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      They are already using AirBnB.

    2. MJB7

      Adjusting behaviour

      Probably just by photographing the victim against a white sheet.

  3. petethebloke

    Use EXIF

    If the bad-arse perpetrators left the exif data in their photos, it would be easier still.

    In fact, they should take the photo as a group selfie.

  4. Tigra 07 Silver badge

    Yeah, this can't backfire at all...

    No officer, i can assure you i'm not a prisoner or a sex slave. I'm handcuffed because i'm a very bad boy.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Now imagine I was a stoker applying this dataset to tinder pictures

    The road to hell is always paved with good intentions.

  6. x 7 Silver badge

    There's an inherent problem in the theory.........

    The reality is a large of photos used for trafficked girls don't actually show the victim: a reverse image search (Yandex is best) shows that around 60-70% of girls advertised on Vivastreet in the UK actually use photos stolen from other websites - which equates to around 80-90% of foreign girls listed

    Doing the same test on Adultwork shows a lower number of fakes, but the girls on AW are less likely to be trafficked

    1. x 7 Silver badge

      Something I forgot to say in my last post.....

      the reality is that few trafficked women are touted through hotels nowadays anyway (at least in the UK).

      The ones who are taken on tours around the country tend to use short term lets from AirBNB or (more often), while the longer term "popup" brothels tend to rent flats or houses for 3/4 months from dodgy rental agencies who don't ask for references - often run by immigrants.

      1. Commswonk Silver badge

        @ x 7: You seem remarkably well informed.

        Is there something you're not telling us?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its not AI... sigh

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: Its not AI.

      A week ago, I would have agreed with you. However, I've had a lot of mind expanding drugs over the weekend, and I would now disagree. It's a question of semantics, and human perception and reaction.

      If we take that "Intelligence" is the application of logic to a situation in order to build up rules about that system. then this is clearly "AI".

      However, it fails at being "Artificial consciousness", since it cannot learn this behaviour in such a way as to apply to any other situation and interact with other intelligent entities.

      All the while, the Turing test has been posited as a test of intelligence. It's not. It's a test of consciousness. If it were a test of intelligence then Deep Blue probably aced it way back when.

      I think as a whole, humans are a lot more comfortable talking about artificial intelligence rather than artificial consciousness. At least for now.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: re: Its not AI.

        The label of "AI" is pure marketing and hype. What will the new label (buzzword) be when machines actually think and have a consciousness?

    2. jakeisatwat

      Thank fuck someone else thinks this. It's not AI. 'I' - intelligence - is comprehension and perception. machines in their current for cannot comprehend information, they just take a set of data in, apply a set of rules or processes to it, and output a result. Machines don't understand what they're doing. Seriously, I wish pepople would grow up.

      1. tfb Silver badge

        A reasonable definition of 'AI' is 'getting a machine to do something that previously required intelligence'. By that definition yes, it is AI.

        1. Peter Boyle

          Like multiplying and adding? Used to require intelligence. These days just done by a bunch and & or gates.

          1. tfb Silver badge

            Exactly so. It's a very tiny part of AI but it is a part of it. There used to be a saying in the AI community (probably due to sone famous pioneer but I am too lazy to look it up) that, if we knew how to get a machine to do something, it stopped being called 'AI'.

  8. x 7 Silver badge

    truth is, the researchers are looking at this from the wrong angle.

    What is needed is a search function that will match face and body pictures across multiple girl profiles - if you could trail the history of a particular face, or tattoo - or group of faces - as they tour around the UK then it would aid a lot in tracking the workings of these trafficking gangs. The same with the backgrounds: the real hope there is that a search index can be built of flats/houses/bedrooms which will link girls to specific pimping groups, not hotels.

    As I said earlier, you'd have a lot of wasted effort because of the high rate of use of fake.stolen photos.

    But.........if you could index the Adultwork and Vivastreet sites on a daily basis, capture the profile photos and phone numbers, run the faces and bodies through recognition process, and then index the rooms so that profiles can be linked then you'd be a long way down the road of getting a handle on how these bastards work

    1. Korev Silver badge

      The then Mrs Korev lived in a house at university that was occupied via a load of druggies which had been cleaned up and turned into a student house*. They had huge problems getting utilities etc sorted, the worst of all were the banks who refused to send card there. I assume that if your place had been incorrectly flagged by this then you'd have all sorts similar issues.

      *After a few months I'm not sure how big the difference would have been

  9. devTrail

    Snooping platform

    This is clearly an attempt to track people movements using sex trafficking as an excuse. Further exploitation of the victims.

    1. x 7 Silver badge

      Re: Snooping platform

      If you'd actually met any of these trafficked girls and seen the conditions they live in, you really wouldn't say that.

      1. devTrail

        Re: Snooping platform

        I didn't say anything about sex trafficking. I talked about the purpose of the platform, therefore your answer is not a reply to what I said.

        1. x 7 Silver badge

          Re: Snooping platform

          My answer is indeed a reply to what you said, because the context of this thread makes it clear the purpose of the database is to aid identification of trafficked sex workers. No comment from you can change that

    2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: Snooping platform

      Possibly excessive cynicism, but I see where you're coming from.

      The aim of helping prevent people trafficing is excellent, but as with so many tools it can be used for good and evil. Trafficked slaves? Good. Opposition politician on the run and in hiding gives TV interview from hotel room? Not so good.

      1. devTrail

        Re: Snooping platform

        TV interview from hotel room

        It's not just that. Once they learn how to train a network to identify the background context (which is quite difficult now), it's just matter of changing the dataset, then every picture shot in a restaurant, in a pub and so on could also tell the location.

  10. a_yank_lurker Silver badge


    Many hotels and long-term residence inns over here have very similar looking rooms based on the age of the building. So the rooms will look the same except for some minor differences in decor and bedding. Differences that will change over time. Plus, if one is careful about what is in the picture, there is less useful information than one might suppose. Framing the picture is not that difficult.

    As far as using the photo meta-data, it depends if the miscreant is smart enough to remove it and set the date deliberately wrong on a camera.

    At best that might eliminate locations but I doubt is will very good at positively identifying a location. Valuable to a point, you know what you can safely ignore but is not by itself definitive.

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