Guns and Gear

Google maps global arms trade

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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Google has launched its latest effort in the fight against the bad guys: a map of the global arms trade.

The data, which can be viewed via Google’s web browser, Google Chrome, is displayed in a stunning visualization using its Web GL Globe.

The visualization shows “government-authorized small arms and ammunition transfers” across the world between 1992, following the end of the Cold War era and the fall of the Soviet Union, and 2010.

The project is supported by The Igarapé Institute, a Brazilian security development think tank, and the Peace Research Institute Oslo, an international conflict research institute.

Not surprisingly, the United States is at the top of the list for civilian and military small arms imports and exports.

Google held a summit in mid-July, Google Ideas INFO: Illicit Network, Forces in Opposition, with the Tribeca Film Festival and the Council on Foreign Relations.

The visualization was produced as part of the summit, which brought together journalists, national security and law enforcement experts, academics and private corporations.

The map, however, made its public debut on August 3, days after the U.N. failed to come to an agreement to on the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty.

“The visualization reveals patterns and trends in imports and exports of arms and ammunition across the world, making it easy to explore how they relate to conflicts worldwide,” wrote Scott Carpenter, deputy director of Google Ideas. Google Ideas is Google’s think tank.

In a July blog post, Google Ideas Director Jared Cohen explained that Google is in a “unique position to explore the role that technology can play in tackling some of the toughest human challenges in the world.”

“Recently, we’ve expanded our focus to include how violent illicit networks such as narco-trafficking, human trafficking, organ harvesting and arms dealing,” said Cohen.

Last year, Google Ideas “convened the Summit Against Violent Extremism with former gang members, right-wing extremists, jihadists and militants as well as survivors of violent extremism.”

“We believe that technology has the power to expose and dismantle global criminal networks, which depend on secrecy and discretion in order to function,” said Cohen.

“And for the past few months, we’ve been working with people fighting on the front line to gain a better understanding of what drives these networks and how they function,” he said.

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