Fundamental rights implications of recent trends in digital forensics


  • Mark Cole


  • Catherine Van de Heyning
  • Georgios Bouchagiar
  • Markus Hartmann
  • Erik Modin

Organisation: Université du Luxembourg

Room: Online 3

Timing: 10:30 - 11:45 on 29 January 2021

Digital forensics can now assist police and judicial authorities in an unprecedented way. Contemporary technologies may promise speed, precision and accuracy, as well as address both past and future crime more effectively. However, today’s digital forensics-technologies can pose new risks to the people. The active and decisive role of private actors can overemphasise efficiency and bring questions of legitimacy. Intellectual property rights may deny scrutiny of or accessibility to the modus operandi of forensic tools. New forms of AI, involving specialised expertise and unintelligibility, can render reliability-testing hard or impossible. The aura of truth and objectivity, often accompanying high-levelled certainty, can result in misinterpretations or mislead human decision-making. Further challenges can be posed by intangibility, invisibility, non-auditability or volatility of digital information.

• What is the state-of-the-art of digital forensics-technologies in terms of regulation and practice?
• What are the opportunities and benefits promised by digital forensics-technologies and how can their implementations interfere with fundamental rights?
• What are the key legal, practical and technical problems in criminal proceedings, where digital information is collected, analysed and, ultimately, presented before courts?
• To what extent could these problems be overcome and how could a fair balance be struck to render the interference of efficiency-promising technologies with fundamental rights proportionate to the goals pursued?


Mark Cole

University of Luxembourg (LU)

Since January 2015, Mark D. Cole is Professor for Media and Telecommunication Law at the University of Luxembourg, where he previously was Associate Professor for the Law of the New Information Technologies, Media and Communications Law since 2007. He is also Course Director for the Master in General European Law LL.M. programme (SatComMediaLaw track). In addition, he is a Faculty Member of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust (SnT) of the University of Luxembourg. Since July 2014, he holds an additional position as Director for Academic Affairs at the Institute of European Media Law (EMR, Saarbrücken/Brussels). He is editor of the European Data Protection Law Review (EdpL).


Catherine Van de Heyning

University of Antwerp (BE)

Catherine Van de Heyning, prof dr., combines her academic tenure as professor in European fundamental rights at the University of Antwerp with a position as public prosecutor. Her research focuses on the impact of digitalisation on fundamental rights, in particular in criminal law and justice. She is a member of the advisory committee of the UN Human Rights Council. She is a member of academic journals in criminal and human rights law, and author of several articles on the topic. She is a part of the BELSPO funded @ntidote project on online hate speech and non-consensual distribution of intimate images.

Georgios Bouchagiar

University of Luxembourg (LU)

Georgios Bouchagiar is a doctoral researcher in criminal law and technology at the Uni.Lu and the VUB (algorithmic criminal justice; forensic DNA phenotyping). He holds a law degree (Athens Law School), an MS in Information Technology (High Honours, Ionian University) and an LLM in Law and Technology (With Distinction, TILT). Since 2018, his professional experience has included: tutoring and lecturing on information law, fair trials and digital rights (Uni.Lu; Ionian University); research on copyright and distributed ledger technology (IViR; UAntwerp); and practice on face recognition and spying technologies (TILT).
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Markus Hartmann

Central Cybercrime Department North Rhine-Westphalia (DE)

Markus Hartmann is a Senior Prosecutor and head of the North Rhine-Westphalian Central Cybercrime Department (Zentral- und Ansprechstelle Cybercrime, ZAC NRW). Hartmann‘s team of more than 25 prosecutors and specialists is in charge of any high-profile cybercrime cases related to North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous federal state and economic heavyweight. The department‘s responsibilities include cyberattacks on critical infrastructures and corporations, darknet and high-tech hacking investigations as well as online sexual child abuse and digital hatecrime. The ZAC NRW acts as a central point of contact for LEAs, scientific or economic institutions and corporations regarding cybercrime-related issues.

Erik Modin

Danish Police (DK)