Facebook’s smart technology, adept at locating your friends and faces, is now being used in law enforcement to combat sex trafficking under a deal struck with the network and the New York Attorney General.
The initiative was announced by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, whereby Facebook’s algorithms would be used to hunt down Facebook ads, identifying patterns in the text, images, contact data and other information that appears where there is the sale of sex on the network.
“Facebook is pleased to be working with Attorney General Schneiderman on his efforts to combat the scourge of human trafficking. We look forward to helping the Attorney General and his staff bring attention to this important issue,” said Facebook’s director of state public policy.
A Fortune report said that Facebook had issued a statement as follows:
“Facebook is not providing the Attorney General’s office access to its facial recognition software or conducting any facial recognition on its platform as part of this agreement. Instead, Facebook will provide technical assistance to Schneiderman’s staff – at their request – in adopting existing, commercially available technology, that may help find trafficking victims online.”
Facebook has a massive database of “faceprints” to identify victims who appear in the sex ads. Faceprints serve as distinct digital identifiers, similar to a fingerprint, that are based on the unique contours of a person’s face. Facebook uses the technology to suggest tags for people when users post a photos.
In the case of sex-trafficking victims, law enforcement agencies could cross-check images of their faces to discover their identities—and possibly pictures of the people who are controlling them.