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Google fights human trafficking with $3m grant

Google awarded a $3 million ($2 million) grant to three organisations focused on eradicating human trafficking.

The search giant awarded its Global Impact Award to the Polaris Project, Liberty Asia, and La Strada International. With the new funds, the groups will work to combine data pulled from anti-trafficking helplines in order to "identify illicit patterns and provide victims anywhere in the world with more effective support," Google said in a blog post.

Google's Global Impact Awards program, launched in December, supports non-profits that use technology to launch disruptive solutions in their areas of expertise. Google tackled human trafficking at its Google Ideas INFO summit last year, by bringing together technologists, leaders, and those with unique personal experiences.

"By connecting technologists and experts with those who understand and have lived through trafficking situations, our discussion centered around a fundamental question: What if local, national, and regional anti-trafficking helplines across the globe were all connected in a data-driven network that helped disrupt the Web of human trafficking?" Google said.

In addition to the grant, the Polaris Project will receive free access to the data integration and analytics platform from Palantir Technologies, while will help scale Polaris's call tracking infrastructure internationally.

Since 2007, Polaris has fielded more than 72,000 calls via its National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline. The effort has connected 8,300 survivors to services and support and resulted in 3,000 cases being referred to law enforcement. Right now, however, the service is not available outside the US.

"It doesn't need to be that way. Clear international strategies, increased cooperation, and appropriate data sharing amongst anti-trafficking organizations will help victims, prevention efforts, and sound policymaking. Slavery can be stopped," Google said. "Let's get to it."

"Google's Global Impact Award is making it possible for us to connect with diverse anti-trafficking organizations around the world so that the fight against human trafficking is a more collective and data-driven effort," Bradley Myles, Polaris Project's CEO, said in a statement. "Through the Global Human Trafficking Hotline Network, we want to make it as easy as possible for the millions of people held in slavery to reach out to a hotline and access help."

Polaris said it wants to map and identify global anti-trafficking hotlines, connect with them to foster data sharing, and offer training and technical assistance to hotlines that need it.

According to Google, human trafficking is a $32 billion (£21 billion) business the enslaves more than 21 million people.

Last month, meanwhile, Google announced the Global Impact Challenge, an initiative designed to support UK non-profits engaged in outreach efforts that use technology in innovative ways. Judges include Tim Berners-Lee and Richard Branson.