Control Through Cell Phones Video Transcript

Benjamin Perrin, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, University of British Columbia:

Cell phones are used in a number of different ways in controlling victims of sex trafficking. Text messages were used by one convicted trafficker in Toronto to arrange for appointments for men to come in to abuse her. He would even have the audacity to send her a text message which would create a sound or buzz on her side of the hotel table to let the man know that his time was up and if he wanted to continue his abuse he had to pay more money.

So texting is being used a lot. Fortunately that creates a record, right, this is evidence portentously later but nevertheless being used to control these victims. It allows the trafficker to control multiple victims and stay in constant contact with them in a way that previous technology didn’t allow. The more insidious form of this is using the Smartphone GPS technology and some traffickers in North America have used these applications which allow people to track their friends so if people are not familiar with this, the way it works there’s an application on these phones where if you and I are friends we can agree to let each other know at all times or whenever we choose to turn the function on wherever we are physically located. So a lot of teenagers do this when they go to the mall, right? They go to the mall, twelve girls or boys go to the mall they all push the button turn it on. They disburse in groups of two or three, here and there, and then they’re able to shop through the mall and later they check their phone and say, hey! you know our two friends are right next door at the record store, and they go back there and meet up with them. That’s the way it’s kind of designed to be, it’s kind of fun, you know, its kind of odd to some of us but I certainly wouldn’t use it myself but fair enough, you know.

Kids use it these days and traffickers are, unfortunately, now as well. No longer do they have to just call the victim to find out where they are, they can monitor them in real time and the way they do that is if the victim doesn’t answer the phone, there are repercussions for that as well. So the phone can’t be just left somewhere. So the traffickers have been able to use this as a method of control as well and it’s why we really need to have a better handle on the use of technology to understand how traffickers are able to operate and really move beyond the Hollywood version of human trafficking where physical chains are used to keep victims in hotel rooms and locked away from plain sight.