Hacking for Humanity


Imagine you see a young girl in a rest stop bathroom. She has no phone and there is there's a stranger waiting for her outside. You can tell something is off, but you know approaching the girl could put both of you in danger. What do you do?

Is there an app for that?

GSPIA students are fighting human trafficking through collaboration, partnering with Pitt Cyber and the School of Computing and Information, on a two-day hackathon competition to develop technological tools to help victims and bystanders in situations where human trafficking is suspected.

Former CIA analyst, GSPIA faculty member and hackathon co-organizer Julia M. Santucci knows first-hand the prevalence of the issue.

“It’s a problem in the U.S. and right here in Pennsylvania. This issue spans local to global, which is, relevantly, GSPIA’s motto," she said.

Santucci will lead a group of GSPIA students who will act as policy advisors for the hackathon. Part of the Ford Institute for Human Security, this working group will study both policies regarding human trafficking and the real-life experiences of those in the field.

During the hackathon, GSPIA students will coach undergraduate participants to help them develop the most relevant concepts possible.

“This is a multidisciplinary effort. We are bringing together students from across Pitt to fight a social problem,” Santucci told her team." 

After the hackathon, the work group will prepare and present a report to security specialists in the Pittsburgh area.

Last year, the National Human Trafficking Hotline received 562 calls in Pennsylvania reporting trafficking, identifying 518 likely victims. The International Labor Organization estimates that there are approximately 20.9 million trafficked persons world-wide, creating over $150 billion in profit for traffickers annually. 

Santucci is calling for GSPIA alumni who work on human trafficking to share their experiences with the work team, in person or through video conferencing.

Undergraduates in the Pittsburgh area are welcome to join the hackathon. Registration will open in the spring.

The hackathon will take place on March 22-23. If you're a student interested in participating, click herefor more information.

Interested alumni are encouraged to contact Julia M. Santucci via email at julia.santucci@pitt.edu