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Enabling trust, security and privacy in addressing modern slavery

This project examines the barriers, incentives and opportunities to enable responsible data sharing for addressing modern slavery.

Addressing modern slavery requires cooperation amongst government agencies, non-profit institutions and businesses to share data, tools and resources to effectively deliver services, inform and implement policies and good practices, and respond to changes.

Multi-sector cooperation is needed to build resiliency in communities and institutions and enable response to fast-moving international events such as the recent migration crisis, or more local issues and events such as the “county lines” and discovery of the bodies of 39 Vietnamese people in a refrigerated lorry in Essex in October 2019.

Relevant data is sparse and patchy. Often people who were affected by modern slavery have contact with a wide range of services in the public sector (from healthcare to law enforcement and border authority), in the non-profit sector (such as helplines or direct support services) and in the private sector (for example banking), and may cross borders.

Despite some efforts to create platforms facilitating data sharing across sectors and jurisdictions (for example Traffik Analysis Hub), challenges continue to plague policy-makers, NGOs and researchers, particularly in cases that involve sensitive personal or proprietary data, giving rise to a myriad of privacy, security and trust issues. Barriers to data sharing can be described by twinning concerns for data underuse and data overuse or misuse, and are also embedded in issues of trust, privacy and security. Despite a huge appetite for data trusts, the solely legal approach to data sharing hasn’t brought success. Consequently, harnessing data to understand the complexities of modern slavery and develop relevant solutions hasn’t yet fulfilled its potential.

The project

This project involves a multi-disciplinary team, led by The Alan Turing Institute, in collaboration with the Bonavero Institute at the University of Oxford, Open Data Institute (ODI) and the Modern Slavery Data Group (MSDG) – led by Andrew Wallis (founder of UK’s modern slavery organisation Unseen). It aims to identify the data and algorithmic trust, security and privacy requirements to create breakthroughs in enabling data flow in relation to modern slavery.

The project is building on the previous work done by ODI partners to bring about access and trust, grounded often in the legal and ethical code of conduct issues, and stakeholder mapping analysis, as well as on Bonavero Institute’s data protection and human rights work on challenges arising from Brexit and GDPR, and the Turing Institute’s work on privacy-enhancing technologies.

The team takes a novel approach to policy-enabling data sharing. Understanding the barriers to trust, security and privacy can help realise the potential of data and algorithmic approaches when legal or cultural factors slow the progress. It could also help identify personal rights and jurisdictional challenges in data sharing, as well as informing new research into data governance.

The project will focus on data that can support the detection and response to two issues related to modern slavery. The first is domestic servitude as one of the issues that we know the least about, the second is online sexual exploitation, as a phenomenon that is overwhelming policy-makers and that can inform other online challenges.

The overall goal is to enable data flows, access and sharing to help facilitate policy and infrastructure innovation to address modern slavery in a sustainable way.

Project Lead:
Anjali Mazumder and Mark Briers, The Alan Turing Institute.
The Alan Turing Institute, Bonavero Institute at the University of Oxford, Open Data Institute, the Modern Slavery Data Group.