There’s An App for That: Figure Out How Many ‘Slaves’ Work for You

There's often a heavy price to pay for your favorite gadgets. And that's long before they hit store shelves.

By Jorge Rivas Oct 20, 2011

Slavery Footprint is a new online and mobile phone app that can calculate how many low or no wage workers toil away to produce your favorite consumer gadgets. The app’s process is fairly simple: it analyzes your habits, consumer spending and living environment. Its creators hope to raise awareness about forced labor, which they sum up as a "modern day slave trade."

Once the user answers questions about everything from what gadgets they own to their eating habits, the app then takes that information, breaks it down to raw materials and compares it to vetted data from the Trafficking in Persons Report and The Freedom House index. From there, it assigns each product with a score that calculates how many workers it took to produce that item.

According to the app’s developers, this information is critical because forced labor exists in the production of most our commodities, including: cocoa, cotton, coal, seafood, charcoal and rubber. and many more are produced using slave labor. Additionally, tantalum, tin, and tungsten —  used in most electronics — are all mined under coercion in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"Our aim is to create a tool that serves as a ‘rosetta stone’ for the public to understand where they fit in the issue," Justin Dillon, the executive director of, said in a statement. Dillon hopes the campaign’s website and mobile application will help users see that they’re intimately connected to forced labor.

"We’re not saying don’t purchase things, but if there’s a better option, we’ll tell you — and we’ll know where you are," Dillon told "If you go into Starbucks and you want to find a better option, check in."

The app was produced with a grant from the U.S. State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

Back in September, Sophia Chen wrote for about the deadly labor behind most of our favorite consumer gadgets. One of the biggest companies is Foxconn, a Chinese manufacture that made headlines when over a dozen workers attempted suicide. 

In Foxconn’s highest-paying factories, located in China’s coastal cities, workers earn just $1.18 an hour, and that only after a recent 30 percent increase in wages. But the manufacturer’s loudest critics point out that blame for horrific labor conditions isn’t Foxconn’s alone. As long as multinational corporations that market popular brands to Western consumers demand fast, high-quality work at rock-bottom prices, consumer electronics will be made in sweatshops.