A UC Berkeley PhD candidate has developed the first automated techniques to identify adult ads tied to human trafficking rings by linking the ads to public information from Bitcoin -- the primary payment method for online sex ads.
The study is a first step toward developing a suite of freely available tools to help police and non-profit institutions overcome these challenges and identify victims of sexual exploitation.
"The technology we've built finds connections between ads," said Rebecca Portnoff, a UC Berkeley PhD candidate in computer science, who developed the algorithm as part of her dissertation.
The work was funded by Amazon Web Services Cloud Credits for Research program, Giant Oak, Google, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Education.
Computer scientists from UC San Diego and the New York University Tandon School of Engineering were also involved in the study.
The research team's approach relies on two novel algorithms.