The average user may rely on Google simply to find videos of cats or the best possible deal on their latest gadget, but the technology giant's eyes have moved in a less frivolous direction.
Without fanfare, the company has been quietly using its vast search capabilities to track and trace a less tasteful topic: criminal activity.
Google Ideas, the think tank of the technology giant, has been quietly working with the Council on Foreign Relations and other relevant organizations over the past several months. The aim? To combat drug cartels, money launderers and human traffickers who run their operations through digital networks.
Over the next few days, officials from Google and groups that specialize in fighting this illicit activity will be meeting in Westlake Village, Calif., to develop strategies combining criminal expertise and technology to fight crime globally.
"Google is in a great position to take these on," said Rani Hong, a survivor of child trafficking in India who is now a special adviser to the United Nations. "They're a powerful medium and they have great tools to solve this problem."
According to the Associated Press, dozens are expected to attend the summit. Attendees include assistant U.S. defense secretary Andrew Weber and Brian Dodd, director of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's counter-terrorism and transnational crime efforts. Stewart Patrick, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations said:
"It might sound like a different path for Google, but technology companies today have a lot of powerful tools for bringing transparency to these illicit networks, to fight back against corruption and empower those who are trying to combat transnational crime."
This week's conference follows a similar summit last year in Dublin, which brought together former gang members to try and find solutions to ending violent extremism.