Human trafficking has rightfully become an urgent issue around the world. International human rights organizations estimate that 2.4 million people have become enslaved and exploited, primarily women and children. They are victims of sex trafficking, slave labor, forced begging, domestic servitude, forced marriage and even organ harvesting. Most endure inhumane living conditions. Greed drives trafficking: It is the third largest global criminal enterprise, behind only drugs and arms smuggling, with an estimated $217 billion in annual revenue.
Human traffickers prey primarily on the poor. Most people who fall victim to trafficking want to escape poverty, improve their lives and support their families. Traffickers offer them well-paid jobs abroad or in another region far from home. The desperate victims then borrow money from their traffickers in advance to pay for arranging the job, travel expenses and their accommodations. When they arrive, they find that the work they applied for does not exist or the conditions are completely different. But it’s too late; their documents (if they exist) are often taken away, and they are forced to work until their debt is paid off. The victims are stripped of their identities with no one to turn to for help or rescue.
Lack of Identity
It is the lack of identity that primarily enables traffickers to exploit their victims. In most countries, we take identity for granted. We have laminated ID cards, embossed and tamper-proof passports, driver’s licenses, birth certificates and Social Security cards. Our names, addresses, date of birth and our faces are clearly identifiable.
However, all that gathered information conveniently located on a piece of plastic or paper is a luxury to many people. According to the World Bank, there are over one billion people in the world without any sort of official identification. Over half of them are under the age of 18. Without ID, they’ve been rendered invisible. There’s no way for them to travel officially, go to school or get social benefits.
It forces us to ask—is there a way to prove identity in a way that protects the vulnerable among us?
Unisys Stealth(identity)™ and Blockchain
Most people equate blockchain with cryptocurrency—electronic funds such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. The underlying technology behind blockchain, however, lends itself to irrefutable identification as well. Trials using blockchain to help prevent human trafficking have proven successful but have been limited in scope due to insufficient resources and lack of any systematic global infrastructure for capturing and storing IDs in the blockchain.
Unisys, as a global information technology company that builds high-performance, security-centric solutions with a significant presence in 110 countries, is an ideal partner in delivering a global blockchain ID platform. Our Stealth(identity)™ solution already delivers irrefutable identity authentication in high-volume at border checkpoints, airports and other venues. Stealth(identity) can be modified to use blockchain as the “store and forward” repository of its held biometric IDs—once a person is enrolled in Stealth, their data is safe, easily accessible across regions and borders, providing irrefutable proof of identity.
Blockchain ‘Blocks the Chains of Trafficking’
Hence, blockchain working with Stealth(identity) can store biometric identities—fingerprints, iris scans, facial recognition—that cannot be forged or altered. With a simple, one-time setup, women, children and others susceptible to human trafficking will be irrefutably registered for later identification. Forged documents will no longer be of use. The invisible become visible to border patrols, law enforcement and social workers, removing the chains of servitude.