Google chief Eric Schmidt declared war on international criminals Tuesday, vowing to harness technology to battle “illicit networks” around the world.
At a two-day summit including Interpol, government ministers and victims of forced labor and child slavery, Schmidt said the Internet can help fight traffickers of drugs, sex workers and organs.
International police body Interpol used the conference to unveil a pioneering initiative to crack down on trade in fake goods, using an app developed with the help of search giant Google.
“In a connected world, vulnerable people will be safer, trafficking victims can learn their rights, can find opportunities; organ harvesters can be named and brought to justice,” Schmidt said.
“Connection protects us .. together we can use technology to protect the world,” he told the “Illicit Networks: Forces in Opposition” summit in Thousand Oaks, north of Los Angeles.
Juan Pablo Escobar, the son of infamous former Colombian drug cartel leader Pablo Escobar, joined the conference via Skype.
“The moment I was the most scared was when I realized my country was using my father’s violent methods to fight him,” he told the summit, which will hear Wednesday from Alejandro Proire, interior minister of drug war-torn Mexico.
Indian former child slave Rani Hong, who is now a UN advisor on child trafficking, wept as she recounted her own story. “I was beaten, I was tortured, we are talking about slavery at seven years old,” she said.
“I was treated as a piece of property to be used to make profit… I cried and I cried. They told me to shut up and they said I didn’t have a word and nobody would listen to me.”
In one concrete example of technology fighting crime, the Interpol Global Register (IGR) initiative aims to track illicit goods by verifying products through security features, using the scanning app.
“Right now in special areas (like) pharmaceuticals, tobacco products and household goods, a consumer doesn’t know what’s fake and what’s real,” Interpol chief Ronald Noble told AFP.
“We came up with this idea that will allow a consumer or law enforcement or businesses to scan a code and determine whether or not it can be verified as authentic,” he added.
“It becomes green or red. Green means verified, red means not verified.”
Google designed the application for Android devices, but Interpol plans versions for other platforms, including Apple, Blackberry and Microsoft.
One of the first users of the new system is PharmaSecure, which stamps unique security codes on more than one million packets of pharmaceuticals produced every day in India alone.
Noble explained: “In India what they do is they put unique numbers on packages of pharmaceutical products.
“The goal would be that if the product is supposed to go to country A and it’s somehow in country C, and you scan it, it will come out as non-verified. It means that the consumer should be careful.
“So, the same time it’s being scanned, the country (where it was produced) knows it’s being scanned. So it will be able to map where this illicit traffic goes.”
Schmidt said the global village created by the Internet and technology was a tool that must be harnessed for good.
“The connected community is a stronger community. So today that village will revolt if their mobile devices were seized. That’s how important technology is,” he said.