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Council of Europe’s anti-human trafficking body calls on states, civil society and tech companies to counter the use of technology to recruit and control victims

July 2022 by Marc Jacob

On the occasion of the World Day against Trafficking in Persons, held every year on 30 July, the Council of Europe Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) joins the Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons (ICAT) in calling on State Parties to the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings to counter the increasing use of technology to recruit, advertise and exploit victims of human trafficking, and to harness the great potential that technology can have in countering this crime (see joint statement).

GRETA President Helga Gayer said: “Countries monitored by GRETA have reported an increased use of the Internet and mobile phones for recruiting and controlling victims of trafficking. Building knowledge and capacity of law enforcement officials, labour inspectors, prosecutors and judges, and enabling cooperation at all levels, is a crucial part of the response to cyber-trafficking.”
In March this year, GRETA released a report detailing strategies, tools and good practices for overcoming existing challenges and boosting responses to online and ICT-facilitated human trafficking. The report provides evidence-based recommendations on how to enhance the detection, investigation and prosecution of technology-facilitated trafficking, co-operation with private companies, and international co-operation

The challenges posed by technology on the investigation of human trafficking cases include data encryption, large volume of data, lack of technical equipment and training, and inadequate legislative tools. This calls for investment in capacity building of law enforcement officials in the areas of Internet monitoring, cyber-patrols, undercover online investigations, and the use of Open-Source Intelligence, social network analysis and automatic searching tools to analyse evidence.

At the same time, the Second Additional Protocol to the Council of Europe Cybercrime (Budapest) Convention, opened for signature in May 2022, provides new tools for enhanced co-operation and a framework for obtaining electronic evidence more effectively.

Co-operation with private companies is crucial for combating trafficking in human beings, and should involve the development of co-operation protocols and data-sharing procedures for requesting evidence and taking down content related to human trafficking.

“Technology-based policies to combat human trafficking need to be designed and applied with careful consideration for human rights, including the rights to privacy, freedom of expression and freedom from discrimination,” added GRETA’s President. “The best interests of victims should be at the heart of any action.”

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