Workshop on Data Protection in Sharing and Exchanging of Electronic Evidence, July 2015

 

The Workshop on Data Protection in Sharing and Exchanging of Electronic Evidence was dedicated to discussing privacy issues related to the exchange of digital evidence. These constitute a major topic in discussing the legal implications surrounding the use of digital evidence, not the least due to the divergent legal frameworks and different legal concepts (not only with respect to data protection law, but also in criminal procedure law per se) in the different Member States.

The collection of evidence has been very important since the very beginnings of criminal investigations – it has been a crucial pillar of lawful criminal proceedings compliant with fundamental constitutional principles. Exchange of evidence between authorities, on the other hand, in particular the exchange between authorities of different Member States of the European Union, has significantly gained importance very recently. Mutual legal assistance itself is a well-known tool to exchange evidence on an international level since many decades. However, with the growing-together of Europe in general, and the creation of frameworks and tools to facilitate cross-border investigations in particular (such as creating competent authorities, centralized data bases, common legal frameworks), exchanging evidence has undergone a transition from occurring rather exceptionally to becoming more or less a standard procedure, at least in certain areas of criminal procedures such as serious organized crime. The fact that crime involving digital data and networks tend not to stop at borders creates the need for close cooperation between law enforcement agencies all over Europe. While an efficient exchange of digital evidence already is and will become even more a crucial pillar of any such cooperation, shared data bases have become an important toll in doing so. However, centralization of electronic evidence in such data bases, while possibly facilitating cross-border investigations on the one hand, involves significant privacy risk on the other hand, which is the reason why in some countries the exchange already between purely domestic authorities is governed by strict laws.

Therefore, the EVIDENCE Workshop on Data Protection sought to distinctly address the particular privacy risks involved in exchanging digital evidence by uniting experts from academia and from the law enforcement sector involved in a two-day discussion. This discussion sought to identify the most relevant privacy risks as well as the practical needs for efficient law enforcement, and to balance both against each other where necessary, through identifying and suggesting possible remedies.

Framed by the speeches and the panel discussions were the two group sessions:

  • Session Day I: Identifying the Data Protection Topics and Issues to Be Addressed
  • Session Day II: Identifying the Remedies for the Data Protection Issues found on Day I