University of Southern California USC

Technology and Labor Trafficking Project

USC Annenberg on Communication Leadership & Policy

Humanity United Grant


In 2014, the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy will conduct the first in-depth study of technology and data-driven approaches to combat labor trafficking. Technology is playing an increasingly significant role in understanding and addressing labor trafficking, forced labor, and exploitation. The global digital landscape is marked by the rapid diffusion of online technologies, mobile, social media, data analytics, mapping, and GPS – even in less developed nations. A critical challenge for the field is the lack of evidence-based research on the relationship between technology and labor trafficking. Building an empirical base is essential for responsible decision-making and risk assessments, particularly in designing interventions for vulnerable populations.

Supported by a grant from Humanity United, the Technology and Labor Trafficking Project will build on the Center’s leadership in the technology and human trafficking space to understand and guide current and future interventions in forced labor and exploitation. The project will examine the role of technology in facilitating labor trafficking and investigate the information asymmetries that contribute to exploitation. The study will also highlight the state of the art in monitoring and identifying labor trafficking in supply chains, the workplace, and recruitment practices. A final report will provide businesses, governments, NGOs, and the policy community with critical information about immediate risks, best practices, recommendations, and guiding principles for technology based solutions to labor trafficking.

As part of the Technology and Labor Trafficking project’s first phase of research, a preliminary framing document was published in June 2014 and can be downloaded here. This framing document provides an initial scan of the technology and labor trafficking landscape based on initial literature reviews, expert interviews, and stakeholder discussions. The purpose is to explore the key issues, provide the context for the current research approach, and discuss the trajectory of the project and next steps. This is an evolving document – open to reader comment and criticism – and will be further revised and incorporated into the final report. Please send your feedback to the principle investigator and corresponding author at

Mark Latonero, Ph.D.
Research director and research professor
Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy, University of Southern California