The future of ethical investigations

As investigations continue to evolve in complexity, having ethical standards will help to ensure the responsible development and use of evolving digital intelli...

From voice-activated smart assistant speakers and customer service “live chats” to navigation systems and facial recognition on mobile devices, our society’s integration with artificial intelligence is so commonplace, many consumers don’t even recognize the technology they rely on routinely falls into the category.

While AI and automation have earned a certain degree of acceptance and even appreciation in daily life, skepticism about the use of the same tech in law enforcement only seems to grow, in large part due to concerns for privacy. This is a disparity we cannot afford to ignore.

With technology so readily used by those of all ages, online engagements have become fertile ground for malice on behalf of bad actors. Accordingly, modern investigations now rely heavily on the lawful collection of personal data to solve these crimes: A recent industry trends report revealed most forensic experts now view digital evidence as more important to case solution than physical evidence. A stark statistic considering 30 years ago, a cell phone was unlikely to be found anywhere in a courthouse, let alone routinely subpoenaed for evidence in virtually any case. It is this investigative deployment of AI and collection of digital intelligence that has sparked ongoing concerns and skepticism around the world, with citizens of every country questioning if their privacy is being infringed upon.

So long as these technologies and digital communications are regularly used, AI, automation and advanced technology must be supported as a means to serve the public and keep our communities safe.

In an ideal world, a shared, universal ethics standard would be adopted to quiet these fears, accelerate justice and keep the public safe. As we work toward such a global agreement, law enforcement and investigative teams must develop and adhere to ethics standards that consider our new reality.

Setting the standard

The best practices and ethical principles that once guided criminal investigations have not kept pace with the evolution of technology. Today’s criminal cases include massive volumes of digital evidence from increasingly tech savvy criminals using thousands of different devices and operating systems. Ethics standards and best practices can ensure these innovative solutions not only enable law enforcement agencies to stay ahead of bad actors but also prioritize the protection of individuals’ data and privacy.

When developing and selecting technology, key considerations include:

  • Controls: With strict controls in place, agencies and companies can ensure solutions are used as intended and only when legally sanctioned. For providers, it is also critical to have robust vetting procedures in place to help keep technologies out of the hands of bad actors. These can include reviewing potential customers’ human rights records and various policies.
  • Compliance: When vetting customers, it’s imperative technology providers ensure the company or agency to which they sell is compliant with the policies and regulations of both the locations they operate in and those of the provider. If a customer were to break compliance, it is the responsibility of the provider to withdraw support and cease sales to them moving forward.
  • Restriction of sales: Given sensitivities around the data digital forensic technologies collect and analyze, it is critical that technology providers are cautious about where they operate. Keeping privacy, security and human rights top of mind can help them to ensure they only work with companies, governments and agencies that will act lawfully.

Once implemented, agencies also need strict protocols in place to ensure proper documentation of the collection, management and analysis of data so every step in the digital chain of custody can be audited and proven legal. This process ensures that the digital evidence collected is admissible in court. The availability of data is also paramount, and providers should have backup systems and recovery solutions in place in the event of a system outage. Considerations such as who is authorized to access data also help boost confidence in data confidentiality. Overall, setting transparent standards on how technology utilizes data in investigations can help to reassure citizens that safeguards are in place to protect their privacy while allowing agencies and investigators to do their jobs.

It is also important for technology providers to set and uphold clear privacy guidelines as this can help to guarantee privacy by ensuring that solutions use unbiased data, are explainable to many stakeholders, keep a human in the automated loop, traceable and transparent throughout the entire process.

As investigations continue to evolve in complexity, having ethical standards will help to ensure the responsible development and use of evolving digital intelligence technology. Agencies and industry alike must recognize these standards are a moment for us to address growing civil threats and create a safer world.

Yossi Carmil is CEO of Cellebrite.

Copyright © 2024 Federal News Network. All rights reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

Related Stories

    Bake risk management and ethics into the planning and implementation of your agency’s AI projects

    Read more
    GettyImages/Smederevacfacial recognition

    The future of ethical investigations

    Read more