Creating clusters to develop sustainable data-driven policing solutions by adopting an ethical approach

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Dr David Wright | Founder & Chief Research Officer
Dr Agata Gurzawska | Cluster Lead - Ethics, Human Rights and New Technologies

Date: 9 July 2020

Data-driven policing tools that collect and process potentially personal data may interact with the rights and freedoms of individuals, such as cybercrime victims, perpetrators or other Internet users.

In order for these technologies to be sustainable in the long term, it is essential to adopt a proactive approach addressing ethical, legal, data protection and societal challenges related to their envisioned use.

In January 2020 Trilateral Research participated in a workshop organised by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs (DG HOME). 

The workshop brought together approx. 100 representatives of around 30 on-going projects in the area of Fighting Crime and Terrorism (FCT) research topic, funded either by the ISF-P or the H2020 programme.

The workshop discussions covered legal and ethical aspects of developing and using data-driven policing technologies as well as technical ones. It aimed at creating a forum for brainstorming on common challenges, exchange best practices, discuss possible solutions which would lead to joint outcomes and concrete actions.

Several security projects presented their work related to the use of synthetic and real data for research purposes as well as questions related to ethics, law, data protection and societal impacts.

The participants discussed various issues sharing good practices and lessons learned, including such topics as:

  • Open and publicly available datasets relevant for security/FCT research
  • Principles for the use of synthetic and real data for security/FCT research
  • Legal bases for establishing collaboration and sharing datasets between projects
  • The ethical and legal framework for security/FCT research: sharing legal and ethics materials, i.e. guides, handbooks and approaches including the recently published EU report “A Preliminary Opinion on data protection and scientific research” (06/01/2020) of the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS).

As a result of these discussions, a number of actions were planned to tackle issues raised by the participants, namely:

  • Maintain an online forum for security/FCT research projects to share experiences and lessons learnt
  • Maintain a list of open and publicly available datasets relevant for security/FCT research that can safely (i.e. without security, legal or ethics implications) be used by projects
  • Create a repository of relevant ethical and legal guides, that would be followed by an event dedicated to legal and ethics training.

The participants represented different backgrounds so that they were able to share various perspectives. Law enforcement agencies (LEAs), researchers and experts in data-driven policing, AI and ethical, legal and societal aspects worked side by side, together with members from Europol and Interpol.  Representatives of several European Commission’s units including DG HOME, Research Executive Agency (REA), as well as Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD) were directly involved in the workshop.

Ethical approach in developing data-driven policing tools

Throughout the lifecycle of a project, from the early design stage to the deployment of the product or service, Trilateral Research conducts an integrated data protection and ethical impact assessment (E+PIA) by taking an integrated and interdisciplinary approach.

The potential ethical, legal and societal considerations are being addressed starting from design and development activities, and we will continue during the piloting of the different tools.

This work is conducted in close cooperation with project partners and other stakeholders to understand and respond to their needs.

We have launched a security projects cluster to act as a platform to discuss and address best practices in this sector. The cluster includes:



DARLENE (starting in September 2020)





RAYUELA (starting in October 2020)


Please contact us, if you work in this sector and would like to be updated about the future workshops and networking events.

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