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Marinus Analytics offers new tool to help police combat human trafficking

| Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
An image depicting how FaceSearch matches facial features in one image to another
FaceSearch
An image depicting how FaceSearch matches facial features in one image to another

Marinus Analytics, a Car­negie Mellon University startup known for creating TrafficJam, an app that assists authorities combating human trafficking, has released a facial recognition tool to help find a specific missing person.

FaceSearch makes it possible to link a photo of a missing person to a photo of a potential victim that has appeared on areas of the internet not normally indexed by Google and other search engines, which is known as the deep web.

“FaceSearch has a huge opportunity for impact to cut down on the amount of hours police spend trying to find victims,” said Emily Kennedy, founder of Marinus Analytics, which started at CMU and is now based in California. “We're making the work that detectives do easier, more straight forward and quicker.”

Criminals exploit the deep web and the dark web — accessible through anonymous, encrypted networks — to sell weapons, drugs and sex.

“We've never appreciated the full scope of the problem and the number of people worldwide that were exploited or trafficked,” said David Hickton, founding director of the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security and former U.S. Attorney in the Western District of Pennsylvania. “We made it a priority and through coalition and technology and advances in technology, we were able to find this hidden human slavery that was hidden within our community.”

Law enforcement officials say they see huge potential in FaceSearch and other technologies that allow them to peer into the deep web and identify victims who have been reported missing based on a set of unique facial features.

“Sex trafficking is a business that is largely plied on the internet; it's very technologically driven illegal industry,” said Darrin Turpin, a supervisory special agent with the FBI in Pittsburgh who investigates human trafficking cases. “We're always eager for technological tools that will combat this threat.”

Because the deep web is so hidden, and many criminals disguise themselves under aliases, facial recognition technology will aid in matching data that couldn't be done with the naked eye, said Matt Trosan, an FBI supervisory intelligence analyst.

Kennedy anticipates that additional features from Marinus Analytics will include the ability to identify specific pieces of furniture and the layout of a room to track a victim's location.

Anyone with tips involving potential human trafficking crimes is encouraged to call 412-432-4000 or visit tips.fbi.gov .

Emma Curtis is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7822, ecurtis@tribweb.com or via Twitter @EmmaCurtisPGH.

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