Police Detectives on the TOR-network (A Study on Tensions Between Privacy and Crime Fighting)

The study aims at answering the question of how our society can properly deal with the tension between privacy and other fundamental rights of citizens (TOR-users), and the exercise of state power (officers on the TOR-network), when this power is exercised for the purpose of preventing and investigating crime. The core idea is to compare everyday police reality with the demands that are imposed on detective work by principles of both forensic correctness and legal fairness.

The present study focuses on police detectives fighting crime on a specific part of the internet: the TOR-network. TOR is the acronym of The Onion Router, which stands for a technique that helps an internet user to remain unknown. TOR was developed with the good intention to protect the privacy of internet users. However, part of the TOR-network has become a mature supply chain for illicit material and services, such as counterfeit money, stolen cards, access to hackers and hitmen and ‘how-to-guides’ for criminals and terrorists. Consequently, the TOR-network has attracted the attention of the police. Hence, the study takes us to the very heart of the privacy debate since here the obvious wish of TOR-users to remain unknown clashes with the power of the state to police the public sphere and fight crime.

Essentially, the present study aims at answering the question of how our society can properly deal with the tension between privacy and other fundamental rights of citizens (TOR-users), and the exercise of state power (officers on the TOR-network), when this power is exercised for the purpose of preventing and investigating crime. The core idea is to compare everyday police reality with the demands that are imposed on detective work by principles of both forensic correct¬ness and legal fairness. ‘Forensic correctness’ refers to collecting information in accordance with technological and jurisprudential requirements imposed on law enforcement. ‘Legal fairness’ refers to the police doing their work in accordance with the rule of law and fundamental human rights.

The results can help the police to fight crime in modern society appropriately. The results can also help those to whom the police are accountable as well as provide the academic world with new and up-to-date arguments in the ongoing discussion about technology-based policing, funda¬men¬tal human rights and how the law can be enforced in this newly created digital environment.

Although this study deals with police detective work in a technological environment, its main focus is not on technology as such. Instead, it is mainly about understanding human behaviour, about norms and about the relation between the two. The study is set up as an international comparative study. Detective work on the TOR-network will be studied in Norway, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The forensic analysis will be carried out in Sweden.

Facts about the project

Project number: 80512

Project leader

Wouter Stol

Duration
2016-2020