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Next Time You Find A Kid Begging On The Streets, Here’s An App To Help You

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By Shweta Sachdeva:

We all have been avid fans of stories of people (or aliens) with super-human powers, who save the world a day at a time and bring smiles on people’s faces. Just like Batman is to Gotham City, you could be one to that kid banging his fist on your car window while you appear to be oblivious to his/her condition.

helping faceless

Many of us have that moment of guilt and sympathy when we see a girl begging in the streets with her baby brother in tow or the little guy serving chai somewhere. Well, here comes the saving grace in the form of an app, for all of us who want to “do something” for these children. The founder of this app was inspired owing to his own experience of almost being kidnapped. He was lucky to be saved by a stranger in the nick of time. Instead of letting it become just a memory to re-visit, he immortalized it into a project known as Helping Faceless.

What is it?
Helping Faceless is an app developed by Shashank Singh and Amol Gupta that uses technology to help combat child trafficking and kidnapping. The idea is simple: click a picture of the child you see and upload it on the app. With the help of these pictures, a search process is initiated in order to match them with the previous records; all of this is handled by the app itself. If a match is found, they forward this information to non-profit organizations who then help connect these children with their families.

While there are several legislations and enactments in place to fight against child trafficking, it is an evil that fails to die. The Child Labour (Prohibition and Prevention) Act, 1986 (amended in 2006), Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1986, Sections 361, 363-A, 367, 369 of the Indian Penal Code (deal with kidnapping of minors) etc. are present to provide relief to such children and their families- but the dialogue “kanoon ke haath lambe hote hain”, remains a mere filmy line evading its culmination into the real Indian society’s frame. This is an app to address the woes of those families that lose their children and lack any aid from the authorities.

helping-faceless-app

Founder’s Words
The founders of this amazing app are Shashank Singh, a Computer Science graduate (hence the techie-solution to the sociological problem) and Amol Gupta. They have received quite a few offers by national and foreign organizations to help them locate missing children. No wonder the responses to it have been manifold, as such an agenda is not only noble, but also an efficient recourse for citizens to assist in this search of children by means that are accessible to all.

According to Shashank, it is an “an 8 month-old initiative, with the project in Mumbai already underway”. Currently comprising of 4 team members and 20 active volunteers, their Mumbai part of the project is running effortlessly with positive reception from the populace and authorities alike.

He further adds about their future plans by saying, “We are already in talks with NGOs in Kolkata to get a pilot project up and running, with the help of the Kolkata police”. They are planning to extend this ambitious venture to the national level once they see their pilot projects running actively in metro cities.

I was lucky enough to have a chat with Shashank, for exploring more of what Helping Faceless is and how it’s all working out. Here’s a short excerpt:

What have been the most difficult tasks in making this a success in India? 
1. Finding a model of financial self sustainability
2. Acceptability among established organizations in this sector.
3. Child-rehabilitation is a complex issue.
4. Drug addiction among few children on street.
5. Suspicion among children on streets. They, rightly so, don’t trust everyone.

What has been the response of law and order officials to your initiative?
They have generally showed interested in the idea. We are talking to an NGO that will be giving a demo of our technology to the Kolkata police. We are cautiously optimistic of the situation.

How many children have been successfully re-located/helped?
We have been able to help 3 children directly or indirectly. It’s a rather recent initiative still taking shape so the numbers are not too high, but we are proud of them.

How long does it take to match the pictures that have been uploaded with those in your database?
It depends. The time ranges from 10 minutes to a few days. We have some unmatched photos that are waiting for counter-photos from our volunteers. So there is a chance that one of you will upload a photo of a child who needs help and we will get a match in these un-matched photos, effectively getting us into action.

What about the people, how do they generally respond to this app?
People love our idea and are willing to help in whatever capacity they can. If nothing else, we have been able to increase awareness about the issue. So, many young people now look at this issue with a more humane outlook.

The app has definitely showed positive outcomes and is something that our country requires urgently. But it largely depends upon the public to make it a reality. So go ahead, instead of waiting for change to occur, be the one in-charge by initiating it. You can be a kid’s own Superhero by joining hands with the program! The ball’s in your court now. Don’t ponder, act!

The Helping Faceless app is available for download on the Google Play store here.

You must be to comment.
  1. Helping Faceless

    Hello Shweta,

    Thanks for covering us. It really help us spread awareness about our initiative. Good Luck to you guys too .

    Regards
    Shashank Singh

    1. Swati Bansal

      you must get this app available for ios users also. This will increase your takers..I believe this is for android users only as of now..

    2. Helping Faceless

      Hello Swati,

      Yeah its only android app for now. We have a small team for development, and IOS is on roadmap 2-3 months down the line.
      Till then IOS users can either whatsapp us the pictures on 8879026299 or send it as email community-manager@helpingfaceless.com .

    3. Swati Bansal

      Great 🙂

  2. Abhishek

    What if no match is found?

    1. Shweta Sachdeva

      Currently, they’re only working on getting together the kids who are located within their database. Otherwise, they plan to venture out and form an NGO to help all children. Once they see through their pilot projects running successfully, they do plan on branching out.

    2. Helping Faceless

      @Rahul : The algorithm keeps a look for the photo, lets say the kid is spotted after 2 years down the line , our system will immediately identify him/her and we would be able to help him/her then. The idea is to branch out to national level in “long run” and help everyone.

      This slide might help to show a glimpse of our vision.
      http://slideshare.net/shashanksingh10/helping-faceless-2014/10

  3. Anchit Shethia

    At least highlight the App name. I was searching for the App name for 5 minutes. Handy app though.

  4. Vikram

    Leaving a link that takes you directly to the app would be great!

    1. Shweta Sachdeva

      Here’s the link for all those who’re keen about helping by downloading this amazing App:
      https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=in.amolgupta.helpingfaceless&hl=en

    2. Chandrasekar

      Please edit the article and put the app download link. With out the link in the article, No one would care to find it in comments

  5. ANUVA

    Amazing work!Better than taking a job in an MNC.Thanks for your amazing idea.I hope more branches are developed as son as possible.

    1. Helping Faceless

      Well, We are doing Helping Faceless meanwhile keeping our day jobs 🙂
      So dont leave your MNC job just yet.

      @Anuva : We do hope to polish the “tech” and make it even better.

  6. Shreya

    I’m not too sure how the child would react to us clicking her/his picture instead of helping her/him out. To her/him it might seem like we’re making a mockery of of her/his poverty.

    1. Shweta Sachdeva

      You could inform him/her of the same if it perturbs you. Remember this is for a good cause 🙂 I’m sure, they won’t be able to understand or appreciate it as we do, but it will lead to positive results if we just help in our own little ways.

    2. Helping Faceless

      Hey @Shreya,
      You have a genuine concern and thanks for raising it.

      We dont want to stop people from helping these children. If you have food to spare, please share with them (but not money) and take their photo. This way you have helped the child both in long term and short term.

  7. Kanwar

    Very Good initiative and perfect use of technology.

    1. Helping Faceless

      Thanks you @Kanwar, if you don’t mind we would love to add you in our newsletter. https://www.facebook.com/helpingfaceless/app_100265896690345

  8. Partha

    I am not able to find this app in Apple App store.

    1. Helping Faceless

      Hello @Partha,
      Thanks for the comment. No, we don’t have an IOS app, as if now, but are trying hard to find someone who can help us in this regard. You can always message photo’s of children-in-need-of-help to our facebook page or email it to us at community-manager@helpingfaceless.com . We even have created a whatsapp group of volunteers for this purpose, if you want I can add you into that.

  9. Mehar Sachdeva

    Great work guyz…..I hope it works well…..coz I wud lyk 2 b a part of ds as m also strongly against social evils specifically related to children n women. ..I hv 2 faced such incident…so I understand d pain well….I ws also targeted by a guy 3 years back…..bt nw I hv bcom more strong n bold….

    1. Helping Faceless

      Thanks @Mehar,
      Strong people like you are pillars of our society. Tell you what , hit us on community-manager@helpingfaceless.com with an email and we can figure out how we can work togther.

  10. Ekaansh

    How is the match found. How is the information for the same child stored previously in the database? And what happens after the match? By the way, a very good initiative. I hope this app works around for the eradication of child trafficking.

    1. Helping Faceless

      In reply to @Ekaansh

      Q.”How is the match found”
      Through face recogntion and data analytics, its covered more deeeply here Project Spotlight – Helping Faceless

      Q. “How is the information for the same child stored previously in the database? And what happens after the match?
      We source our data from national database of missing children and trying to get access to more databases.”
      Once a match is found we get in touch with S.O.C.H , an organization with 3-4 year experience in helping runaway children and under their guidance we figure out the best strategy to help the child.

      “By the way, a very good initiative. I hope this app works around for the eradication of child trafficking.”
      Thanks you 🙂

  11. Soham

    Hello, I want to tell you all one thing that “an AMAZING” word can be too small for appreciation of such realistic philanthropist work. Though I am just a student doing M.Tech , I am willing to contribute in this work for sprading awareness of this APP among all the youth connected to me, so that we can make it can make easily accessible to our fingers as we do with Watsapp and Facebook.

    1. Helping Faceless

      Hello Soham,
      Thanks for the kind words.
      Why dont you join up as our volunteer on https://www.facebook.com/helpingfaceless/app_100265896690345 and lets communicate from their.

    2. Helping Faceless

      Hey Sami,

      Unfortunately I dont know anyway other way except you giving me your phone number, to add you to the “whatsapp” group.

      So tell you what, you can send me your number at community-manager@helpingfaceless.com
      and signup as volunteer at https://www.facebook.com/helpingfaceless/app_100265896690345 .

      This way you will not miss on any announcements, news we have and would be seamlessly able to contribute 🙂

      Thanks again for putting in so much effort, Its because of this support we are so inspired to take helping faceless to whole new level.

  12. Sami Baig

    Pls give The whatapp Group link for IPhone users & those who want to upload pics without using the app

    1. Helping Faceless

      Hey Sami,

      Unfortunately I dont know anyway other way except you giving me your phone number, to add you to the “whatsapp” group.

      So tell you what, you can send me your number at community-manager@helpingfaceless.com
      and signup as volunteer at https://www.facebook.com/helpingfaceless/app_100265896690345 .

      This way you will not miss on any announcements, news we have and would be seamlessly able to contribute 🙂

      Thanks again for putting in so much effort, Its because of this support we are so inspired to take helping faceless to whole new level.

  13. Abhishek Kumar

    Hi Can you please send the phone number on which we can whatsapp.. This will help us in sending it immediately and it is much easier than going to app (as most of the people just use whatsapp and not any app)

    1. Helping Faceless

      Add this number on whatsapp 8879026299. Please do send your name on whatsapp so we can identify.

      Installing app is best , because we hope to push more updates to this app and make it optimized for taking these photos so that face recognition can be done much faster.

  14. Pooja

    Great initiative.. finally something we can do to combat this monster of child trafficking.. loved the idea and hope & pray its a great success.

    1. Helping Faceless

      Thank you @Pooja

  15. Kalasini

    Amazing app! Good Job!

    1. Helping Faceless

      thanks 🙂

  16. Subhankar

    Hi,
    Great initiative. Only issue I have is that taking someone’s photo without permission. Isn’t that illegal? Also if we do ask for permission it is very likely the child will refuse. What happens in that case. I am guessing the technical part of the app is all sound but what about the social part?

    Also the app is incompatible with my phone. I use Google Nexus 4. Is there a reason?

    1. Helping Faceless

      Answer to @Sudhankar

      Q. “Only issue I have is that taking someone’s photo without permission. Isn’t that illegal? Also if we do ask for permission it is very likely the child will refuse. What happens in that case. I am guessing the technical part of the app is all sound but what about the social part?”
      A. First, Its legal grey zone, in public space you don’t have expectation of privacy. So taking a photo in public space (train, roads) is okay, not inside a house.We are also consulting with a practising lawyer to figure out the legal framework.
      Second, on social end, we ask our volunteers to pictures of whole environment instead of up & close pictures. We can detect multiple face and run face recognition on all of them. Obviously some of them wont be children-in-need, so we are working on upgrading our app to help you point that out. This way safety of everyone involved is also ensured.
      Thirdly, on technology end you can read more here machinelearningmastery.com/project-spotlight-face-recognition-with-shashank-singh
      Q. Also the app is incompatible with my phone. I use Google Nexus 4. Is there a reason?
      Oh we didn’t know that. We have a small team and testing on each and every android device available in market is pretty impossible due to our budget. Thanks for telling us, we will check it out.

    2. Chaitu

      Be more concerned about saving the child. If my violating a kid’s privacy helps save that child’s life, any legal troubles or fines are worth saving that kid.

  17. neha

    hi shashank,
    the intentions are great. i am very happy to see people like you are thinking about the country in such innovative and practical ways. i am based out of Bangalore where i see many kids begging too. would like to volunteer and do my bit for this.
    my best!
    neha

    1. Helping Faceless

      Hello Neha,
      Thanks, sounds good . Why dont you join our volunteer group .

      Whatsapp me your name on 8879026299. I’ll add you to group.
      Also please join our newsletter at https://www.facebook.com/helpingfaceless/app_100265896690345

  18. Arjun

    Shweta, do you realize the Image you have used above is By Photographer Steve McCurry? Did you even give visible credits? Very irresponsible on your end! You can be sued under the copyrights law.

    http://stevemccurry.photoshelter.com/image/I0000wLtnFhpUd6k

    1. Jitu

      Arjun, I don’t understand your misplaced outrage. True the copyright needs to be acknowledged, but, I am shocked that that was the only thing you found worthy enough and condescend to comment on.

    2. Jitu

      The image is on the app, btw, so if anything, you should ask the developers if they have permission to use the photo … while you try and figure out anything else to nitpick.

    3. Helping Faceless

      Thank you Jitu,

      As we clarified in last comment, to our best knowledge the image was under Creative commons attribution , which means to be freely used in non-commercial purpose as stated in our slides . But in light of new evidence we are talking to lawyer about this and will take further actions accordingly.

    4. Shweta Sachdeva

      Hi there, I have only written the article and researched about the App, the picture has not been attached by myself.

  19. Shamila

    I can’t find ur app in the App Store

    1. Helping Faceless

      Hello Shamilla,
      I am so sorry we dont have a ios app, yet. Its on roadmap but with smal team it will take time.
      Till then IOS users can either whatsapp us the pictures on 8879026299 or send it as email community-manager@helpingfaceless.com .

      Also dont forget to join as volunteer https://www.facebook.com/helpingfaceless/app_100265896690345

  20. Jigsaw

    Clearly knowing that in Bombay alone, begging is a Rs. 180 crore business, run by gangs and thugs who force children to beg, and women who rent children, you continue to let them prey on your kindness, allowing organised crime to flourish.

    Will you continue to squander your hard-earned money or learn to subdue your emotions?

    Make your choice.

    1. Helping Faceless

      Hello Jigsaw,

      We were not clear if this comment was directed at us “Will you continue to squander your hard-earned money or learn to subdue your emotions?” .
      Any clarification would be quite helpfull.

  21. Peehoo

    Hi… The android app requires log in to Facebook account. Can I not use without attaching to FB

    1. Helping Faceless

      Hello Peeho,
      sorry for that , we have heard the public demand loud and clear. We will try adding email registration in next release. Till then you can whatsapp us at 8879026299 the pictures of children who need help.

  22. Dipesh patel

    App is not visible in App store -iphone
    how do i download it?

    1. Helping Faceless

      Hello Dipesh,

      Unfortunately we have smallt tech team so even though IOS is on roadmap it will take time. meanwhile you can use whatsapp to join our volunteer club and send us pictures of children you find need help.

      So tell you what, you can send me your number at community-manager@helpingfaceless.com
      and signup as volunteer at https://www.facebook.com/helpingfaceless/app_100265896690345 .

      This way you will not miss on any announcements, news we have and would be seamlessly able to contribute 🙂

      Thanks again for putting in so much effort, Its because of this support we are so inspired to take helping faceless to whole new level.

  23. BK

    Amazing effort guys….I am going to start helping out starting today. I meet 2 kids like this every single day, and the least I do is give them snacks. Now, I can do much more.
    Fantastic job !

  24. darshi

    The idea that you have come up with is excellent. If we can use technology for the less privileged ones, it is great. However I have a few queries. Are you a registered NGO or do you have any type accreditation to demonstrate that the data you accumulate will not fall in wrong hands, will have utmost security, and that it will not be used commercially. By commercially I mean two aspects. You will be in possession of data about a huge vulnerable section of the society. What type of check and audit mechanism you have developed/propose to develop, so that someone from your team itself will not sell away the data and make this children more vulnerable because a traffic mafia will actually have ready data available for them to abduct these children. Secondly, you will have numbers of people who will download the app, will it be used commercially?

    I understand that you are doing this in good faith, but we have to be cautious when dealing with vulnerable marginal sections of the society.

    Thanks

  25. Neeraj

    You used a Steve McCurry photograph?? I mean i can understand stealing from unknown people, but using a photograph from a photographer of this stature, without giving any credits is salute worthy.

    Copyright is a joke.

    1. AN

      Good catch but fell short…
      You can understand stealing from unknown people? Why , Sir

  26. Manish Sharma

    You are being modest when you say 3 is a small number. Even if you were able to reunite 3 child directly or even indirectly is a huge number. I could only feel elated thinking of how the parents must be feeling who got their child back. Thanks.

  27. Abdul

    In the Cities , in signals , Mask, temples, there are sooo many children are begging…
    Are we go there for a change 🙂

  28. AR

    Is the identity of the photo up-loader kept anonymous?

  29. Misha

    It’s a terrific initiative that involves the common public as well as the government. And since you have already come so far in developing the app, in due time, the results would be profound. But do you think taking pictures is appropriate? Beggars on streets are also human and they would be highly suspicious of this practice. In essence it is a violation of privacy. They may even feel threatened and retreat to their dwellings rather than come out onto the streets. Perhaps the long term consequences are ambiguous at best.

  30. talha

    respect man
    salute (Y)

  31. talha

    Can this be applied in Pakistan too?

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