The U.S. military is releasing a search engine of its own to investigate "Dark Web" links in an attempt to combat human trafficking.
Called Memex, the search engine indexes Web content that search engines like Google are not designed to catch, presenting results graphically to help identify any hidden links between them.
"We're envisioning a new paradigm for search that would tailor indexed content, search results and interface tools to individual users and specific subject areas, and not the other way around," said Chris White, program manager at DARPA. "By inventing better methods for interacting with and sharing information, we want to improve search for everybody and individualize access to information. Ease of use for non-programmers is essential."
According to DARPA, human trafficking largely relies on the Internet to attract customers. It also relies heavily on forums, chat services, job postings and other hidden services to allow what is essentially modern day slavery to thrive. The search engine could uncover many of the services being used by human traffickers.
While the search engine is being targeted at human trafficking, it could potentially be used for other things too, such as illicit drugs activity.
"We're envisioning a new paradigm for search that would tailor indexed content, search results and interface tools to individual users and specific subject areas, and not the other way around," continued White.
The Dark Web is essentially defined as areas of the Internet that cannot be searched by search engines. Many of these cannot be searched because, for example, they're too fleeting. To put things into perspective, Google only indexes 10 percent of the Internet as a whole. The parts of the Internet that are indexed are known as the "surface Web."
Authorities, for this reason, however, could use the "dark" side of the web. Because many Dark Web pages are not indexed, criminals use them, such as in human trafficking.
The Dark Web could also be used for businesses. For example, stock analysts could use Memex to search the Dark Web for information about the stocks that they cover. Another advantage of Memex is that it can be tuned to specifically look for pages of interest by the user. Taking user feedback into consideration, it should get better at this as time passes.
Law enforcement is already using a lot of technology made by the team behind Memex. In fact, the team is only around six months in to a three-year research program, so it is likely we will see many more announcements from the team in the future.