TITANIUM: Tools for the Investigation of Transactions in Underground Markets

TITANIUM consults with experts on legal, ethical and societal risks

Karlsruhe (02 October 2018)

TITANIUM is carrying out three rounds of interviews with experts and its partners to determine what impacts its architecture and tools will have, as part of a privacy impact assessment plus (PIA+), a process which examines the legal, ethical and societal aspects in addition to privacy (including EU Directive 2016/680 and the General Data Protection Regulation).

In the first round, we consulted 32 stakeholders including data protection authorities, technology assessors, academics, law enforcement authorities, civil society organisations and banking security officials to identify legal, ethical and societal risks and issues which TITANIUM partners should be aware of.

 In the second round, we will discuss corresponding legal, technical, or operational solutions with developers in the project. The third round of interviews will collect feedback from a subset of external experts interviewed in the first round on the solutions developed in the project.

Results from the first round of interviews showed that law enforcement agencies’ demand for more efficient investigatory techniques in darknet and cryptocurrencies is acknowledged but details on the extent of the use of TITANIUM tools especially regarding monitoring capabilities are highly disputed.

Currently, the existing legal frameworks in most European Member States only allow the use of TITANIUM tools to a very limited degree. New legal provisions for the use of open-source intelligence are required and should adequately regulate the investigatory powers of law enforcement agencies in this regard. Notwithstanding the above, the EU has recently adopted a new data protection framework targeting law enforcement agencies which includes specific rules for data protection principles in the area of law enforcement (EU directive 2016/680).

The consulted experts differentiated between a targeted use of TITANIUM tools based on initial suspicion and general monitoring capabilities. While most interviewees recommended the regulation of TITANIUM tools in a way that their use is limited to targeted investigations, some interviewees advocated a limited monitoring approach that supports investigations. Especially regarding cryptocurrency analysis, legal enforcement officers highlighted the necessity of generating certain background data on relevant actors in a cryptocurrency environment.

Restrictions and precautions in terms of spreading width, severity of crimes, direct deletion of irrelevant data, transparency and accountability rules and access to monitored data only based on initial suspicion were proposed.

Some of the main risks and issues identified by the interviewees include:

  • Function creep: Creeping inflation of TITANIUM tools’ use and misuse by law enforcement officers
  • Wrong decisions based on the findings of the TITANIUM tools, due to high trust in sophisticated technology
  • Possible lack of sustainability of TITANIUM tools due to new technological developments, mainly in cryptocurrencies (e.g. lightning network, new cryptocurrencies), which influence tool effectiveness.
  • Public communication about TITANIUM tools
  • IT-security of TITANIUM tools
  • Proliferation of TITANIUM tools in authoritarian regimes

These and other topics will be further discussed in upcoming interviews. For more details or if you have input on legal, ethical and societal issues relevant to TITANIUM, please contact David Klappert (david.klappert@kit.edu).