Do criminals dream of electric sheep? How technology shapes the future of crime and law enforcement

18 July 2019
Press Release
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New report triggers discussion about innovation and strategic foresight in EU policing

The advent of so-called disruptive technologies – those that fundamentally alter the way we live, work and relate to one another – provides criminals with new ways to pursue their illegal goals, but also equips law enforcement with powerful tools in the fight against crime. To remain relevant and effective, it is necessary for law enforcement authorities to invest in understanding and actively pursuing new, innovative solutions. Europol has published today a report, which will serve as a basis for future discussions between Europol, EU law enforcement and their stakeholders.

Some of the emerging technologies include Artificial Intelligence (AI), quantum computing, 5G, alternative decentralised networks and cryptocurrencies, 3D printing and biotech. These are set to have a profound impact on the criminal landscape and the ability of law enforcement authorities to respond to emerging threats. The disruption comes from the convergence between these new technologies, the previously unseen use cases and applications, and the challenges posed by existing legal and regulatory frameworks.

The report aims to identify the security threats associated with this and points to ways for law enforcement to use the opportunities brought by these technologies to combat crime and terrorism. It also highlights the pivotal role of the private sector and the importance of law enforcement to engage more with these actors. Furthermore, it is of paramount importance that the voice of law enforcement is heard when legislative and regulatory frameworks are being discussed and developed, in order to have an opportunity to address their concerns and needs, particularly with regard to the accessibility of date and lawful interception.

Europol can deliver additional value in an age of rapid digital technological development by increasingly engaging in expertise coordination and collective resource management, which avoids unnecessary duplication of resources and expertise at national level. The Europol Strategy 2020+ set out for the organisation to support the Member States by becoming a central point for law enforcement innovation and research.

Europol’s Executive Director, Catherine De Bolle, said: “Europol’s strategy sets out our ambition to firmly establish Europol as an innovator in law enforcement at the European level. It is no longer good enough to be reactive. Our ability to predict which emerging technologies criminals will turn to next is instrumental to our mission of keeping EU citizens safe. We hope to start a discussion with law enforcement in the Member States and other stakeholders.”

Download the full report "Do criminals dream of electric sheep: how technology shapes the future of crime and law enforcement".