Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! ×
Crime Cellphones Software United States

Your Hotel Room Photos Could Help Catch Sex Traffickers (cnn.com) 151

100,000 people people have already downloaded an app that helps fight human trafficking. dryriver summarizes a report from CNN: Police find an ad for paid sex online. It's an illegally trafficked underage girl posing provocatively in a hotel room. But police don't know where this hotel room is -- what city, what neighborhood, what hotel or hotel room. This is where the TraffickCam phone app comes in. When you're staying at a hotel, you take pictures of your room... The app logs the GPS data (location of the hotel) and also analyzes what's in the picture -- the furniture, bed sheets, carpet and other visual features. This makes the hotel room identifiable. Now when police come across a sex trafficking picture online, there is a database of images that may reveal which hotel room the picture was taken in.
"Technology drives everything we do nowadays, and this is just one more tool that law enforcement can use to make our job a little safer and a little bit easier," says Sergeant Adam Kavanaugh, supervisor of the St. Louis County Multi-Jurisdictional Human Trafficking Task Force. "Right now we're just beta testing the St. Louis area, and we're getting positive hits," he says (meaning ads that match hotel-room photos in the database). But the app's creators hope to make it available to all U.S. law enforcement within the next few months, and eventually globally, so their app is already collecting photographs from hotel rooms around the world to be stored for future use.

Your Hotel Room Photos Could Help Catch Sex Traffickers

Comments Filter:
  • Bullshit. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) * on Sunday March 19, 2017 @02:40PM (#54069585)

    The vast majority of hotel rooms are not unique, they fit a specific floor plan for that chain of hotels. As well, the furniture, bedding, wall pictures - just about, if not everything is identical to many many other rooms in numerous locations.

    I don't care to be tracked under the absolutely ridiculous claim that this will help stop human trafficking. Or maybe I'm just not THINKING OF THE CHILDREN.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      This...
      We are crowd sourcing the tools for a police state to ID far more more than child porn or teen slave prostitutes. Both are horrible but are also the crowbar used to blackmail senators, congresspeople, and parliament members to vote for the cops and feds against sticking up nail or low hanging fruit citizens who are plea bargained guilty if they can be found, suspected, and charged for some crime. These are the tools to build a cops career not so much to do justice.

    • Re: Bullshit. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by gerf ( 532474 )
      Have you ever noticed that each room has a unique painting on the wall above the headboard? Furniture is different, carpet, etc. They can narrow it down more than you might think.
      • Have you ever noticed that each room has a unique painting on the wall above the headboard?

        You mean they are original "art"? I didn't know that, no wonder they're screwed to the wall (notice the word "art" in quotes...)

        • Didn't have to be 100% original to help create a fingerprint. FYI I've submitted to this app multiple times.
        • by plover ( 150551 )

          A lot of the hotel paintings (in even some of the modest chains) are repeated original paintings, often local to the hotel, where the artist was commissioned to paint the same piece and over and over. Budget chains are more likely to have generic prints.

      • I have been traveling on the job for 41 years and have stayed in hundreds of motel rooms. Those paintings and bedspreads and carpet are nearly all the same, at least in rooms within the same chain. A room at Days Inn will be just about like any other room anywhere at a Days Inn. It's the GPS coordinates that will help the cops.
        • by arth1 ( 260657 )

          It's the GPS coordinates that will help the cops.

          Indeed. And mostly by letting them know where you were.

          • It's the GPS coordinates that will help the cops.

            Indeed. And mostly by letting them know where you were.

            And...so what?

            If you were an international terrorist or drug smuggler, I imagine you wouldn't have registered in your own name and used your own credit card to pay the bill anyway. For the rest of us, if the police investigating a crime want to find out who was staying in Room X on Date Y, it's there in the fucking hotel register (or whatever electronic equivalent they have).

            • by arth1 ( 260657 )

              You seem to presume that everyone investigated are likely guilty, and that's why they're investigating. What if someone wants to check who were in towns A and B during talks about marxism, atheist rights, or anything else that's legal but frowned upon? It might even be a coincidence that you were there, but by volunteering the information you set yourself up for being investigated.

          • by Rakarra ( 112805 )

            It's the GPS coordinates that will help the cops.

            Indeed. And mostly by letting them know where you were.

            Yeah, so? I'm willingly volunteering selected information to them. Most people go in knowing exactly what they're giving up, and for the most part, they don't give a shit because they don't need to.

        • It's the GPS coordinates that will help the cops.

          The GPS coordinates in the porn media file/stream? Don't you think you may have missed the point?

    • Re:Bullshit. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by misexistentialist ( 1537887 ) on Sunday March 19, 2017 @03:20PM (#54069735)
      And what is the purpose of this technical solution anyway? Police see an online ad but can't find the location of the "trafficked girl"...when all they'd need to do is call and ask!
      • Police see an online ad but can't find the location of the "trafficked girl"...when all they'd need to do is call and ask ...

        for her to be delivered to $Address$ with a 10cm butt-plug, a litre of vodka, and a tube of cherry-flavoured lube.

        (The latter items being sufficiently unique that the specific combination itself is identifying information and you can arrest everyone in the parking lot.)

    • It's Double Bullshit (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Sunday March 19, 2017 @03:34PM (#54069779)

      I also question that they are really going after "sex traffickers" as opposed to independent women who simply make their own choices about how to earn money.

      • I also question that they are really going after "sex traffickers" as opposed to independent women who simply make their own choices about how to earn money.

        I wonder how many young non-English speaking Asian hookers fall into that category?

        • by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) on Sunday March 19, 2017 @03:52PM (#54069865) Homepage Journal

          I wonder how many young non-English speaking Asian hookers fall into that category?

          Perhaps you should ask them, then, instead of assuming you are "rescuing them."

          It's not like the tools aren't readily available to translate. To anyone wishing to speak with them, or them.

          Just because they don't speak the local language, or don't fluently speak it, doesn't mean that they aren't intelligent people making informed, consensual choices. You can't assume this, or you are automatically on the wrong side of liberty. If you are concerned, you need to ask.

          When you are fortunate enough to have a personal resource — fitness, intelligence, beauty, athleticism, artistic insight, etc. — for which personal and consensual choice are the bounds employed, it is perfectly reasonable to leverage that to your personal advantage.

          What is not reasonable is to dictate to others which of those resources, employed as specified, may be leveraged.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Generally, they're making the informed, consensual choice to sell themselves rather than starve to death. That's not a great choice. How about we provide basic social services and jobs to those in need, so that prostitution becomes a real choice instead of one that's essentially forced on the vast majority of those who do it?

            • by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) on Monday March 20, 2017 @11:27AM (#54073637) Homepage Journal

              Generally, they're making the informed, consensual choice to sell themselves rather than starve to death.

              Your plumber makes the informed, consensual choice to dig into your toilet and root about in your waste rather than starve to death. I wrote software rather than starve to death. McDonald's employees make fast food and take extremely low wages in order not to starve to death. We all make these choices; we value them in various ways, depending on our personal outlook.

              That's not a great choice.

              If it's not a great choice for you, that's fine, then perhaps you'd want to try really hard not to make that choice. But don't tell others it's not a great choice. Ask them if it's a great choice. If they say no, and you can offer them an alternative they agree is better, by all means, feel free to do so.

              How about we provide basic social services and jobs to those in need

              Totally in favor of this. Unfortunately, we're presently under the thumb of people who are not.

              so that prostitution becomes a real choice

              Prostitution is a real choice, just as much as anything else is. Perhaps you're confusing it with slavery, which is something else again (and very, very rare, despite the current agitprop.)

              instead of one that's essentially forced on the vast majority of those who do it?

              We all have to work, unless we're born rich or we want to starve. That's the only extent to which prostitution is "forced" on anyone. Or in other words, pretty much the same as everything else that involves innate skill and suitability.

        • More than you think (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          There are a lot of Korean hookers that come over here just to work, then go back home. They are here to make money, they do work through agencies but they are not doing anything they did not plan to do.

          You don't need to speak the same language to have sex, as many travelers have also found.

        • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Sunday March 19, 2017 @07:10PM (#54070517) Homepage Journal

          I wonder how many young non-English speaking Asian hookers fall into that category?

          Why wonder? Legalize it, have a $10 license, issue work visas and check their ID.

          Boom, you've solved the trafficking problem. Only problem is the Puritans who will be offended by the "insult" to their religion (that other people don't believe in), but they should go move to a place with Sharia if they want to be coddled by religious laws -- it's far more important to rational people to end trafficking than to preventual consensual sex for money.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            and then you have $50 a trick H1B sex workers that can't even pay for doctor check ups.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            The reason trafficking is so common is that there's a supply problem. There are indeed people who want to work in prostitution, but their numbers do not correspond to the demand. People can make large amounts of money by trafficking in women from poorer countries to help meet demand.

            Legalizing prostitution unfortunately starts a race to the bottom [telegraph.co.uk] by creating a competitive market that puts pressure on sex workers to compete via lower prices and committing more uncomfortable or dangerous sex acts than they'r

            • So you go from criminal-gang style exploitation to walmart-style exploitation. I think that still counts as a step up.

            • That's still a hell of a lot better. Bring it above board, create sensible regulations, make it safer for everyone involved.

          • I'd want a bit more regulation than that. At least a minimum period between STI checks, and a mandate on the use of condoms for all penetrative acts, and female prostitutes (I expect these to make up the vast majority, but there will be a few men too) should be required to show they are using additional means of contraception. You'd need an agency - either government- or industry-run - to manage this and issue the licenses. But done properly, it seems like a good idea.

            Prostitution is called the 'oldest prof

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Not only that, has anyone even ever SEEN any of these ads? I've been on backpage for years, and I have not. I doubt they even exist.

      I doubt this BS has anything to do with sex trafficking at all. And as numerous other people have pointed out, they could just get an undercover cop TO JUST CALL THE DAMN NUMBER AND ARRANGE MEETING UP.

      This whole hotel room photo scam is just weird and using a really piss poor excuse.

      • has anyone even ever SEEN any of these ads?

        Are you contending that prostitutes don't ever advertise their services?

    • Re:Bullshit. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Sunday March 19, 2017 @05:50PM (#54070231)

      The vast majority of hotel rooms are not unique

      As someone who pretty much lives out of hotels, you're wrong. Even within chains, even within states, the decoration of each room is pretty much unique to a building.

      I don't care to be tracked under the

      blah blah blah didn't read the article blah blah blah don't know how this even works blah must be evil gubbmint tracking me blah.

      • by faedle ( 114018 )

        You've obviously never stayed at a Motel 6. Usually bedsheets, chairs, and room decorations are all consistent between build dates (or latest remodel years). I've been in three different Motel 6's within the last three weeks, all looked the same except for the teeniest details, such as the view out the window and the precise position of the air conditioning.

    • Besides, they will just put the girl / boy in front of a painted screen with a generic out of state room picture
      Like it or not, they aren't that stupid
  • by Anonymous Coward

    In other news the pictures are now in front of a generic white sheet.

    • Heck, use blue/green screen technology and put up any background you want.

      • Police Station background would be ironic.

        • by Rakarra ( 112805 )

          Police Station background would be ironic.

          Then police officers will start filming at police stations since everyone assumes the police station photo isn't real. When will it end!

  • by JBMcB ( 73720 ) on Sunday March 19, 2017 @02:43PM (#54069605)

    This might be somewhat helpful, but there is one problem. Most budget chain hotels are remodeling in the following manner:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    Every Motel 6 is going to look *exactly* the same. A few years ago my friend was traveling extensively for work. After a few weeks on the road, staying exclusively at Staybridge by Mariott, he would forget what town he was in, as every room was exactly the same, down to the artwork on the wall. He'd have to check the weather on his phone to get an idea of how long it would take to get to the work site from his hotel.

    For the smaller, really cheap independent hotels this might be helpful, but most people going on vacation are staying at chains.

  • Vault 7 (Score:5, Funny)

    by telchine ( 719345 ) on Sunday March 19, 2017 @02:48PM (#54069611)

    Can't they just install Samsung Smart TVs in every hotel and take the pictures themselves?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Why dont the police reply to the ad to find thr criminal?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Fuck off feds. I'm not going to help you create your surveillance database. Just because something can be used to stop crime, doesn't mean it can't also be used to oppress the innocent.

  • Pointless (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Sunday March 19, 2017 @02:57PM (#54069649)

    The pimps will just use old pictures. Behavior will change in a second and all that will be left is a useless service.

    Stupid 'whack a mole'.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Cops just want a database of pictures. The "catch sex trafficers" is an excuse.

    • gravy train for the app creator, cops, "taskforce", "non-profits"...pimpin' ain't that hard
  • by Anonymous Coward

    You find the exact hotel room (unlikely, given that all the big chains look the same nowadays, but whatever).

    Now what? You don't know when the photo was taken, so it could be months old. Guess what, hotels have different people in their rooms almost every single night. It's kind of the point of them.

    3 months old = 90 people to investigate. The manpower to track down 90 different people (even assuming the hotel can ID them conclusively that far back because I've never provided ID to an hotel just to stay

    • I've had to provide ID and a credit card anywhere I've stayed, but your point holds even then. Some pimp takes pictures of his girls in a room, probably at some hotel where they never work. Those are the posted photos. Time lag means there's no way to connect the photos to a specific hotel guest.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I don't know why, but I'm creeped out by this. From a pragmatic perspective I don't see it being effective either. As many have pointed out, chains look the same, what matters is the individual ones. Aren't these usually under suspicion anyway? And aren't there a limited number of chains? Couldn't they just do all this before with a picture-book with 5 pages in it?
    So I have to wonder, what are the true motives? I can't think of anything sinister they could do with this data or this excuse to leverage some s

  • Low priority (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Okian Warrior ( 537106 ) on Sunday March 19, 2017 @03:34PM (#54069783) Homepage Journal

    As much as I'm a fan of law and order, clamping down on sex trafficking is way down on my priority list.

    By and large - not all cases, certainly, but mostly - it's adults making consensual decisions about their own bodies.

    That the article explicitly mentions an "underage girl" is an appeal to emotion by highlighting a specific case. This alone implies that there is *no* scientific evidence that cracking down on sex trafficking is useful or even cost effective. If there was (scientific evidence), the article would lead with it and it would be highly cited. The fact that the article is written with such an appeal implies that the scientific evidence is *against* legal enforcement, saying in effect "we know it's ineffective and harmful, but we want you to support it anyway. Think of the children!"

    How unusual is this specific case? Would the law enforcement resources be better spent in education rather than enforcement? Is this effort easily made useless (by photographing against a sheet, for instance)?

    We don't actually regulate sex trafficking very well, perhaps not at all. It only serves as a wedge that the police can use against the citizens. In the places where it's been legalized (Nevada), the criminal and health disadvantages have been eliminated - and if that situation would hold across the country, it implies that there is no sociological reason to criminalize that behaviour.

    As a country, we waste a lot of time, effort, and money on useless endeavours, trying to regulate sex trafficking is one of these.

    I have no interest in helping the police with any of them, especially if it's based on an emotional appeal without strong scientific reasoning.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Clearly, the word "trafficking" doesn't mean what you think it does. At all.

    • You have any stats (Score:5, Informative)

      by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Sunday March 19, 2017 @04:42PM (#54070025)
      to back that up? Especially that a lot of the sex trafficking going on is people being brought in from third world countries?

      What worries me about sex trafficking is those "consenting" adults. Kinda like how you used to be able to sell yourself into slavery in the form of indentured labor. But if you're at the point where you're selling yourself into slavery you're bargaining position is non-existent and you're probably not really consenting.

      Now, if our government guaranteed every man/woman/child adequate food/shelter/health care/education/transportation/etc you might have a point. But with the way things are it's child's play to force people to do whatever you want...
      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by asifyoucare ( 302582 )

        Do you really think there are large numbers of girls/women being forced into sex work against their will? Think about the problems organising such a thing.

        Most of the customers would be appalled and report it (anonymously where illegal). Even if the first one or two customers didn't report it, the next would. The girls themselves would be very difficult to contain - what is to stop them yelling out, using a customer's phone, whatever.

        It is possible that substantial trafficking happens in different cultur

    • by radish ( 98371 )

      Sex Trafficking != Prostitution

      The latter is legal in (parts of) Nevada, the former certainly isn't. The former also cannot, by definition, involve informed consenting adults.

      http://www.duhaime.org/LegalDi... [duhaime.org]

    • As much as I'm a fan of law and order, clamping down on sex trafficking is way down on my priority list.

      By and large - not all cases, certainly, but mostly - it's adults making consensual decisions about their own bodies.

      No, "trafficking" by definition means it's not consensual.

      The idea is that people are duped into coming to another country, then basically imprisoned and forced to work as prostitutes.

      Someone travelling abroad and charging for sex wouldn't be said to be "trafficked" just because they were in a different country and working as a prostitute.

  • False Positives (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TechyImmigrant ( 175943 ) on Sunday March 19, 2017 @03:40PM (#54069807) Homepage Journal

    "Right now we're just beta testing the St. Louis area, and we're getting positive hits," he says (meaning ads that match hotel-room photos in the database).

    "Hits" or "False Positives" as they are known in statistics.

  • by porges ( 58715 ) on Sunday March 19, 2017 @03:58PM (#54069871) Homepage

    Instead of trying to crowdsource this in a crazy patchwork fashion based on the motivations of random travelers, shouldn't law enforcement ask the hotel chains to provide systematic pictures of their rooms, assuming this is a useful line of inquiry?

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Sunday March 19, 2017 @04:28PM (#54069971)

    Maybe in the old days, but not so much anymore.

    I've watched porn from time to time. And one thing that struck me was; starting around 2008 when the real estate and mortgage markets collapsed, quite a bit of porn started to be made in rented, high end houses. I mean really high end*. I'm pretty sure some were on or near the Pacific Coast Highway in or near Malibu. Like maybe Streisand's neighbors. And there's still quite a bit of speculative property on the market, which only remains out of foreclosure due to rentals and Airbnb.

    *More than a few times I've thought as I watched this stuff that they really should move their naked asses so I can get a better look at the architecture or ocean view.

  • Why don't they.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ai4px ( 1244212 ) on Sunday March 19, 2017 @04:43PM (#54070035)

    Why don't they just get the hotel operators to take a picuture of every room instead of crowd sourcing it to the public? Sheesh. Hotels.com could sponsor it under the guise that they'd have a picture of the room you are booking when you make a reservation.

    • If you were told to take a picture of every room in a hotel would you do that? I wouldn't, that's way too much effort. I'd take loads of pictures of one room, stepping to the left or right a bit, tilting the camera and so on so they look a little bit different. I might even take only half the number and monkey up the rest with Gimp or Scrotoplop.

      OK, so the hotel has a shade side and a sun side, and the rooms come in handed pairs. That's four rooms I'm going in, no more.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    You are not the police
    Do not attempt to engage in their business
    Do not delude yourself into thinking you are helping

    All you are doing is laying pavement for more freedom to be taken away by setting a bad example about social boundaries.

  • Try this (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dabadab ( 126782 ) on Sunday March 19, 2017 @05:54PM (#54070241)

    "Police find an ad for paid sex online"

    Police calls phone number in the ad.

    • Police calls phone number in the ad.

      Not just that - they're now allowed to have sex with the prostitute before arresting him/her. Talk about getting fucked by the state!

  • Sign me up! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 19, 2017 @06:24PM (#54070339)

    just one more tool that law enforcement can use to make our job a little safer and a little bit easier

    Sure! I'd love to work for the police state! And for free!

    "We have over 100,000 people using the app right now, and we're hoping that more will join us to take action and fight this fight,"

    I think a more productive use of everyone's time will be to monitor and document police activity. After all, police lie [buzzfeed.com]. They are corrupt [nytimes.com] and can't be trusted.

  • ...starting whenever they want.

    while going forwards they just put a sheet behind the girl.

    but hey, it's all good. cause you know, children.

    another manipulative con promoted by your friends in law enforcement.

    - js.

    • I was just going to write almost exactly the same thing. If I had mod points at the moment, I would absolutely give you one.

      If it were allowed, I'd give you a dozen.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... underage girl posing provocatively ...

    Ever heard of sexting? There are plenty of schoolgirls posting "posing provocatively" on tumblr and it may be difficult to prove the photo was taken in a private residence. A pimp could use such a photo and send a 19 year-old instead. At the least, pimps will start taking photos that provide a 'private residence' vibe, which will be easy since prostitutes don't live in a hotel.

    ... reveal which hotel room ...

    So what's the plan? Stake-out the room and hope the same room is used again, or the same hotel? This is more push-button polici

  • When challenging a much more advanced force, where head-to-head is a guaranteed loss, asymmetric fighting tactics almost always point to cheap attacks causing large financial cost on the part of your advanced adversary.

    Cue the traffickers. A photo of a lure in a hotel room? The same hotel room? Not a green-screen photo of a different hotel room? So, for the cost of photoshop, a trafficker can not only elude the fbi, but also send them to a different hotel room, far far away?!

    Great job.

The world is coming to an end. Please log off.

Working...