Ahead of the UK Anti-Corruption Summit in May 2016, we held a workshop with investigative journalists and law enforcement practitioners to explore the potential uses of open data. This workshop explored how:Open data can help civil society and media to put corruption issues on the law enforcement agenda, particularly when law enforcement has limited time and resources;
In general, corruption-focused law enforcement have more referrals than they can process. Whilst some agencies might look at bulk data analysis to identify crimes (e.g. cyber crime, child exploitation), this is presently not as common in fraud and anti-corruption work;
Law enforcement are governed by very strict rules framing how evidence can be gathered and used, and requiring that there is a replicable process, carried out by experts, between any original source of evidence, and any analysis that might be presented to a court;
Defence lawyers won’t challenge the evidence – they will challenge the process of evidence collection and processing.
This raises some key challenges for open data use that ultimately aims to secure convictions or sanctions through legal process. Although the use of open data is generally exploratory, it is important in working with open datasets to track their provenance and address the ‘four Cs of evidence’:
Context. Where has the data come from? How was it acquired? Law enforcement cannot use any data that was illegally obtained.
Corroboration. Data on its own is not enough. Behind every data is a human, and it is important to prove what human actions were.
Currency. How up to date is the information? For example: There are different filling times across company registries and information can become out of date quickly.
Completeness. Has the data been changed in any way? If so the defence will want to be able to follow the same trail and mirror it. How can we be sure that this is a complete picture that someone else can replicate?
Source: Open Data, Investigations and Law Enforcement Workshop, April 2016, London.