New app aims to stop sex trafficking
MAPLEWOOD - As part of an effort to end sex trafficking, Molly Hackett, the principal of Nix, a meeting planning firm in Maplewood, teamed up with a group of engineers at Washington University in St. Louis to create a smart phone app aimed at combatting sex trafficking.
The free app, TraffikCam, has users take four pictures of their hotels rooms. Those photos are then sent to a police data base where law enforcement uses them to match ads soliciting customers for sex deals online.
The idea came to Hackett after working with a client involved in a social justice organization aimed at ending sex trafficking.
"We realized the demand for information and education and assistance was really taking off," she said.
Hackett soon founded the Exchange Initiative, a website which provides information on resources to end sex trafficking. A story on the website, published by the St. Louis Post Dispatch, caught the eye of Abby Stylianou of Washington University.
The app has been downloaded by an estimated 75 thousand smart phone users and contributes to a data base of roughly 1.5 million images.
"It took off in interesting places, not just in the world of social justice, the technology interest has been so high," Hackett said.
She describes herself as someone who rarely uses apps.
"For the non-app savvy its right up your alley," Hackett said.
The app requires users take four photos and input the name of the hotel and the room number. To ensure the privacy of users none of the pictures will save to the phone and any information shared is anonymous.
"This will never be a cocktail conversation, its something people don't want to talk about, its something hard to wrap your head around," Hackett said. "Even now, when we introduce the topic to people, you can see them take a step backwards, I mean its physically appalling to think that its happening."
The app is currently in a new beta testing phase and TraffikCam hopes it can expand the police collaboration element. But, for now, Hackett said her goal is to get the conversation going.