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Apply until:

Nov 20, 2024

Funding up to:

€3 700 000

Startup; SME

If you are:

Industry:

International Development

Short description:

Establishing legal and ethical protocols for evidence collection in online child sexual abuse investigations.

ExpectedOutcome:
Projects’ results are expected to contribute to all of the following outcomes:

Development of safer justice outcomes through an increased understanding of the EU-wide legal aspects of online investigations, including undercover, in the area of child sexual abuse;
Improved understanding of the EU-wide legislative frameworks that impact (undercover) investigations in this area;
Modern and robust methods at the European level are proposed at all steps of an investigative process in this area, overcoming various types of biases and obstacles to the collection of evidence that is admissible in court and respects the dignity, privacy, protection of personal data and anonymity of victims;
Forensic practitioners, Police Authorities and other relevant security practitioners active in online (including undercover) child sexual abuse investigations benefit from innovative guidelines, manuals, education and training curricula.


Scope:
The use of online undercover investigation techniques is an important asset for Police Authorities in infiltrating the networks of sexual abusers of children. These methods have proven very effective in understanding offender behaviour and interaction of online service providers, and have ultimately facilitated the shutting down of communication channels used by these offenders, as well as their prosecution. An increasingly important need for Police Authorities’ activity in these spaces is the ability to effectively infiltrate particularly dangerous online groups of offenders, while making sure that the evidence obtained will be admissible in court. EU values and fundamental rights shall stay in the core of any future measures. Research in this area should tackle legislative frameworks to collecting evidence in online, including undercover, investigations of child sexual abuse, leading to guidelines and manuals that would make the capability available across the EU to target these offenders more effectively. The results of this research topic (training, manuals guidelines) should be shared among all European Police Authorities, notably via CEPOL, provided that the Agency opts out from applying for funding under this topic. The successful proposal should build on the publicly available achievements and findings of related previous national or EU-funded projects as well as create synergies with similar on-going security research projects from the Calls 2021-2022 on Fighting Crime and Terrorism in the area of digital forensics and countering child sexual abuse, in order to avoid duplication and to exploit complementarities as well as opportunities for increased impact.

Since the use of undercover agents online could be beneficial in other crime areas too, particularly in counter terrorism, analysis of possibilities for the developed approaches to be adapted to these other crime areas would be welcome. Special care needs to be given to ethics and fundamental rights protection throughout the research and the solutions proposed. This topic requires the effective contribution of SSH disciplines and the involvement of SSH experts, institutions as well as the inclusion of relevant SSH expertise, in order to produce meaningful and significant effects enhancing the societal impact of the related innovation activities.

Proposals funded under this topic are expected to engage with the Europol Innovation Lab during the lifetime of the project, including validating the outcomes, with the aim of facilitating future uptake of innovations for the law enforcement community.


Specific Topic Conditions:
Activities are expected to achieve TRL 5-6 by the end of the project – see General Annex B.

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