Q: How many victims are we talking about, just here in the US?
Somewhere between 1,400 and 2.2 million. The estimated number of humans trafficked in the United States alone varies by more than an order of magnitude. In any industry, achieving a measure of effectiveness within such a wide range would be impossible. Under such circumstances, sound policy decision-making gives way to emotional responses lacking fact-based evidence, funding requests to prevent trafficking and provide victim care appear dubious, and resources and efforts are easily misused when adequate measures of the problem remain so vague.
Q: Why is a good figure so hard to get?
The reasons behind the lack of quality data are real and challenging, including: security concerns, bendable and misunderstood definitions, mixed criminal elements, gray areas especially within labor trafficking definitions, lack of harmony among existing data sources, over and undercounting of participants, and simple unwillingness to share data. These challenges have been documented since 2002, and yet, the problem remains largely the same in 2015.
Q: OK, what is the solution?
Clear data standards and standardized security protocols are the beginning of a solution – a groundwork that can help deliver better numbers and efficient continuity of care for survivors. Affected sectors and likely stakeholders include:
- agencies in the chain of care
- funding organizations interested in accurate reporting
- technology providers (e.g. IBM, Oracle, EMC) interested in security and transmission of data
- industries (e.g. mining, cocoa, shipping, fishing) wanting to eradicate nefarious acts in their logistics path
- uses definitions to lessen confusion
- has well-defined sets of structured data (specific labels, names and values)
- can be the backbone for cooperation
- can be used to derive meaningful statistics
- is constantly reviewed for applicability and efficacy, can be pruned or expanded
- can be the basis for auditing agencies’ processes, both internally and externally
Q: What are some examples of data standards?
802.11 Internet Protocol
After 9 years of negotiation, the 802.11 committee finally agreed on definitions and drew up a standard acceptable to 75% of the committee members. Now, this standard enjoys global adoption by all companies wishing to support the seamless transfer of data, wirelessly.
Healthcare HL7 (CCD)
The Consolidation Project team analyzed and compiled several competing forms and tools, finally creating a fully compliant CCD document, then layering in the additional HITSP, IHE and Stage 1 Meaningful Use constraints. It provides a means for one healthcare practitioner, system, or setting to aggregate all of the pertinent data about a patient and forward it to another user to support the continuity of care.
In 1984, Edwin Barnett III started selling CARFAX reports based on 10,000 vehicle records he obtained. To grow, Barnett knew his company would need far greater access to vehicle records. In nine years’ time, CARFAX was receiving automobile records from all 50 states. Within 20 years, 3 billion records were generated by dealers and shops feeding standardized data into the system
Q: How are you creating a standard?
Right now, we are working with agencies from intake to social work and re-integration into society to observe how data about human trafficking victims is handed off. It is this inter-agency cooperation and investigation that is critical at this phase.
As we gain a better understanding about the how, we will be working with these same agencies to agree on ways to normalize data, create better definitions and remove ambiguities in the most essential “blocks” of information about a person.
The eventual goal is to have a standards committee take ownership of the work and promote it both within agencies, internationally, as well as to funding organizations in a way to engender compliance.
Q: So isn’t this just another big database?
No. This is not a massive data-collection program, nor is it a large system that agencies will have to feed data to (in addition to their normal day-to-day operations). This tackles the problem at the atomic level, so to speak. We are not interested in housing data or adding more burden to the agency workers, on the ground. Any organization can use the data collection or housing method that they already have. It is just how this data is transferred to another organization in the chain of care that is of importance.
Q: I hear about security breaches a lot, these days; how are you going to handle that?
One aspect of standards is also the procedural changes that can come about within and between organizations. Creating standard blocks of data about human beings is one thing; creating a standard operating procedure about transmission is another facet. Reliable and secure methods of data transfer do exist, yet it is shocking to find that many agencies do not employ even the simplest methods of secure data transfer.
Q: OK, how can I help?
We are seeking agencies and individuals within the chain of care for trafficked victims, primarily to gain a larger understanding of how the data flows between operations. If you fall within this category, by all means contact us. Additionally, funding for this project is a need. To learn how you can give, please send us a message.