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Current Legal and Policy Challenges in Open Source CSAE Investigations on the Dark Web – White Paper

April 24, 2024
ARICA – Assessing Risk Indicators of Child Sexual Abuse

As part of its EU-wide legislation monitoring activity, the ARICA project, is presenting this paper on the main current legal challenges in open source investigations of CSAE on the dark web, common to LEAs across the EU.

ARICA, which stands for “Assessing Risk Indicators of Child Sexual Abuse”, is a two-year project funded by the European Union’s Internal Security Fund, which aims to support law enforcement agencies in their fight against child sexual abuse and exploitation. It develops technologies that will enhance LEAs’ capabilities in investigations on online child sexual abuse and exploitation (CSAE) and CSAE material. These technologies will remain free to use for LEAs after the end of the project. The white paper is not an analysis of compliance aspects or capabilities of the tools developed in the ARICA project for use by LEAs. Rather, the paper is intended to highlight some specific challenges and to further the debate on this topic. The three challenges discussed in this paper are the following:

  • Challenge 1: the procedural legality of the use of OSINT in CSAE investigations on the dark web;
  • Challenge 2: the rules of the upcoming AI Act and their impact on AI-driven OSINT tools to be used for CSAE investigations on the dark web;
  • Challenge 3: the impact of the data protection rules of the Law Enforcement Directive (LED) on the use of OSINT tools in CSAE investigations on the dark web.

The purpose of this white paper is to explain the essence of these complex issues in clear and concise terms, in order to raise awareness and facilitate further discussions and debate on the topic, as well as to propose some policy actions that may help to remedy the current problems. In this way, the ARICA project also aims to contribute to the on-going broader debate about police capabilities in the digital age, where a balance must be found between secure societies and fundamental rights concerns, allowing sufficient means to enable effective Law Enforcement, while remaining in compliance with national and European law, including fundamental rights like privacy and data protection, as well as procedural fundamental rights such as the right to an effective remedy, to a fair trial, the right of defence, and the presumption of innocence.

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