Caught Between Old Crimes And New Tech: Anti-Human Trafficking Efforts In The Modern Digital Age

By Jessica Wilkerson 

Introduction 

As society has become increasingly intertwined with and reliant upon the Internet, so have criminal investigations. While this explosion in digital evidence has in many ways been a boon—some commentators speak of a “golden era of surveillance”[1]—the growth and continued evolution of relevant technologies poses significant challenges to the prosecution of criminal acts.

This is especially true in the context of human trafficking investigations, which tend to heavily leverage digital infrastructures like mobile phones and the Internet. This article explores two evolving technologies—device encryption and DNS-over-HTTPS—to provide an explanation of how they work, and the challenges, both practical and legal, that they create for law enforcement efforts to combat human trafficking. In doing so, this article aims to create a deeper understanding of these technologies, dispel myths or confirm theories about their impacts, and explore proposals for ways in which necessary advancements in technology can, should, and must coexist with the needs of law enforcement to prosecute crime.

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