This week the Google Ideas think tank is holding a summit aimed at finding ways to fight illicit networks — everything from drug cartels and arms dealers to organ harvesters and human traffickers — using technology. The summit is taking place in Los Angeles, and Google worked with the Council on Foreign Relations to bring together a wide range of voices, including victims of illicit networks, government officials, and leaders in the tech space. Last year Google Ideas held a similar summit to look at the topic of violent extremism, and that ultimately led to the launch of the Against Violent Extremism social network.
"We hope to discover ways that technology can be used to expose and disrupt these networks as a whole."
In an opinion piece in the Washington Post, Google chairman Eric Schmidt and Google Ideas director Jared Cohen provide one potential solution that technology can offer in these situations — giving sources the ability to report on these illicit networks anonymously, without the fear of reprisal. "Sources don't need to pierce their anonymity," the piece says. "They don't need to trust a single person or institution. Why can't they simply throw encrypted packets into the network and let the tools move information to the right destinations?"
The three-day-long summit ends today, and Cohen says that the goal is not only to come up with ideas to disrupt these networks using technology, but also to "put some of these ideas into practice." If you're interested in seeing what kinds of ideas he's talking about, Google will eventually be uploading videos from the summit to YouTube.