Consumer-facing app for vetting products against database of companies that are known offenders of human trafficking

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

The gist of this app is making it as quick and simple as possible for a shopper to evaluate whether there is human slavery involved in the making of the product they’re about to buy.

Pop open the app, scan the SKU barcode and the app in the background checks the product (and more ideally, everything involved in making the product) to see whether it has a clean lineage. The Dept of Labor publishes this database of products with the countries who are known to engage in slave labor in making them but it’s a generic list. We would need a database that names names to vet against.

That ^^ is the meat of the app. Assuming it accomplishes that, then the next phase should make it easy for the consumer to publicize the fact they’re intentionally not buying this product and why. Give them an easy option to call out the company and/or report them to relevant authorities based on jurisdiction / write lawmakers / publicize to social media / etc.

The Shop Ethical mobile app looks like it enables this as well as vetting product for environmental impact and other bad behavior but it’s limited to Australia. Might be worth reaching out to the developers of that app.

Listing various links here for articles worth reading on this topic:

  1. Overview | Global Slavery Index
  2. Products Made by Child Labor - with Alternative Options - End Slavery Now
  3. Here Are The Companies Linked To Forced Uighur Slave Labor | The Daily Caller

My takeaways after reading these articles:

  • there are a bunch of sanitized generic reports published by gov agencies and nonprofits on the industries that still utilize slave labor but rarely does anyone call out offenders by name. In order to enable consumers to make informed decisions at the point of sale we would need to close the loop and be able to identify products from companies that violate this. We’re not going to have a database of offending SKUs for individual products but should be able to compile a list of known brand offenders so the warning given will be keyed off of brand.

  • This however raises some legal risk around libel posting info publicly based purely on hearsay. Need to research Section 230 law for protection of platform providers with respect to this. Is there any legal exposure for simply doing a meta-analysis of every article out there and compiling a registry of links to articles that call out companies? We should in theory be no different than a search engine at that point curating links to existing public info…

  • It’s not the technical aspect that will be the challenge here (this is actually a fairly straightforward app to build). The challenge is in acquiring reliable data to power it. It should be “bootstrappable” from public info via these articles but need a mechanism for submission and curation and a process for companies to contest claims.

  • Likely makes sense to actually merge this project with the “glassdoor app project” and have one monolithic app with different ways of accessing the info: 1) a browser extension for online shopping 2) a mobile app which reads the SKU for IRL shopping

These are my thoughts thus far on this one.

Posting here on behalf of Petia’s team from the hackathon. We had our first hackathon event in Lisbon on May 7th and one of the teams latched onto this proposed solution. They came up with a clickable prototype for a browser extension that would allow a shopper to immediately see a list of any articles implicating the brand in human trafficking so they could make a more informed purchasing decision. Here is the Figma file they produced.

It’s a good start towards making this idea more real. Open questions at this point are:

  • How structured to make this list? Initially the idea was to jumpstart a database of offenders but there was concern around legal exposure and also the grunt work necessary to get that to a usable state (enough listings, all coded against brand names, etc). The epiphany was that we could just make the extension run a search in realtime to pull articles on the internet. This solves two issues:
  1. legal-wise: there should be no exposure since it’s just essentially executing a google search by brand (ie. “nike human trafficking”) and just returning a list of results.
  2. grunt-work-wise: there is no need to build up that database before launching the extension. It works immediately out of the box once it’s launched
  • They did have the thought that there should be some crowd-sourced curation of these articles. Perhaps a mod wherein the shopper can give a thumbs up/down on “how helpful was this article in making your purchasing decision” type rating. In that way the grunt work of building the data repository is crowdsourced to shoppers using the extension

  • Once that repository exists, it can be exposed via API and other things can be built atop it (mobile app for the equivalent here for IRL shopping). Is there a way to decentralize the database in such a way where it can live on the equivalent of a BitTorrent? So it’s out of our hands in terms of curation. In otherwords the crowd-sourced ratings and reviews live on a database that’s out of our control and there’s a credibly-neutral appeals process for taking down search listings that appear in the browser that doesn’t involve us in any way?

Anyways very proud of this team and their efforts on Saturday. Here is a shot of the magic happening: