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Introduction  Title:
 Definition of forensic profiling




In the context of crime or criminal investigation, profiling is often assimilated with offender profiling, psychological profiling or the use of investigative psychology, mostly, although not exclusively, in the context of violent crimes. DNA-profiling is a different term that is also familiar to a wide range of the population even if its exact scope remains largely unknown. Another immediate perception of profiling in a forensic context is the application of data mining techniques to an important quantity of data collected from crimes and persons in order to recognise patterns that may inform about illegal activities. Less known, but the object of growing interest, is the field of illicit drug profiling (systematic extraction and storage of chemical attributes of drugs seized in order to obtain indications on the manufacture and distribution processes, the size and the evolution of the market). There is thus no one single use of the term “profiling” in forensic science and intuitive meanings apparently lead to very different territories. If the psychological viewpoint appears to fascinate and attract many people, DNA, illicit drug profiling and data mining dimensions appear to belong to technical and highly specialised fields, largely inaccessible to the public.

These ambivalent feelings are the result of a distorted perception of all of the dimensions that lead to wrong expectations and fears: common sense vision of forensic science and criminal investigation differs considerably from concrete practice. Moreover, many different communities of researchers participate in the debate by developing similar but loosely connected models and approaches. These are based on different bodies of knowledge mainly borrowed from psychology, sociology, criminology, forensic science, crime analysis and criminal intelligence, or statistic and computer science. Finally, what really works and what does not is not easy to distinguish.  

Thus, in the perspective of the FIDIS project, the process of balancing risks for the subjects and opportunities for the data controller is not immediate . For instance, weighting up the risks of being wrongly profiled as a criminal in the course of an investigation, and the opportunity for an investigator, law enforcement agencies or the criminal justice system to be able to neutralise dangerous criminals early, is not straightforward. There is an initial need to find some unity within these scattered pieces of works.  

A better formalisation is also essential from a forensic perspective because notions of identity and identification are at the core of the domain and should properly integrate evolutions associated to id-systems and new identities in information society. Moreover, forensic science needs new frameworks in order to make the best use of data mining technology, not only in the treatment of electronic traces, but also to exploit more traditional forensic case data. This convergence between the different fields of forensic science, and particularly what is called forensic Information Technology (forensic IT), with methods for their exploitation such as data mining, seem to constitute one of the biggest challenges for the future.  

This is a considerable task, as forensic science is too often considered to be a list of separated and narrow specialities. However, this FIDIS task, connected with results obtained from other FIDIS activities, offers an opportunity to take some steps towards this objective.  

Thus, the distinctions that are provided here aim to identify some of profiling-related concepts, inferences and technical methods explicitly or tacitly used, as the object of research or applied in practice. Reasoning activities that may be assimilated with profiling are pervasive. Of these inference forms, some are identified here in order to support further FIDIS tasks which will integrate them into a more global approach of profiling . This account is not intended to be comprehensive, because relevant dimensions go far beyond what can be explored in the single task of this project.  



Introduction  fidis-wp6-del6.7c.Forensic_Profiling.sxw  Definition of forensic profiling
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