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Executive Summary

This report, on forensic profiling, provides a bridge between the forensic pre-occupations of FIDIS WP6 and the profiling concerns of WP7. This deliverable is based on earlier workshops on forensic profiling in Amsterdam in 2005 (D7.6a) and in The Hague in 2007 (D7.6b). 

The aim of forensic research is to support investigatory and judicial processes by finding traces in otherwise apparently unpromising raw material from which it is possible to build a picture of events and activities. Locard’s Principle is at the foundation of what forensic scientists do: “Every contact leaves a trace”.  

The issue is data collected for one purpose but then used for another – and without there appearing to be any controls on the further use. Data Protection regimes appear to be silent on the topic. The regimes protect personal data, not generalised data which may then be applied as part of a profile to disadvantage an individual. And any tests that may exist in the legislation are also subject to poorly-defined exclusions based on public safety and the needs of criminal intelligence.  Within Europe, the issue is further complicated by the difficulties of interpreting the various rules for the exchange of data, including intelligence data, between nation state members.

This deliverable provides some discussion to move these issues forward. Conclusions are drawn that new identity systems have their own strengths to detect what was impossible previously. But their weakness is that they can also provide false positives. He goes on to say that while electronic traces are information among others that are valuable in the context of the criminal justice system and forensic science, the technology itself must be understood within its context of use. Forensic profiling follows various objectives that are related to the interpretation process, to the investigation or for intelligence purposes. The use of these possibilities necessitates structured processes that may provide tools that go beyond technologies in order to discuss opportunities and risks. The significance of a profile is very different depending on the aim of processes being carried out: for instance, a physical description of the offender that corresponds to the profile of a certain proportion of the population may have different relevance from an investigative or court perspective. 

In this deliverable we also look in several practical implementations which could be used for profiling, in images, tracking persons, finding relation in transport of drugs and setting up such a centre of expertise for forensic profiling. It appears that much development is needed for having large scale implementations. 

Finally the arguments surrounding the proposed Data Protection Framework Decision for data processed in the framework of police and judicial co-operation in criminal matters are discussed.  

It is concluded that the different norms approved at European level remain insufficient. They do not deal with the impact of the widespread use of criminal intelligence, the increased monitoring of the average citizen or the increased linkage of police databases. Significant issues such as how to ensure the transparency and accountability of law enforcement activities, the quality of the data processed, e.g. the differentiation between categories of data subjects, or a strict application of the purpose specification principle remain unanswered. The multitude of initiatives creates a complex framework prone to legal loopholes and difficult to comprehend. 


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