Deep AR Law Enforcement Ecosystem

Dissemination & Communication


Designing a multi-layered ethical and legal oversight for developing augmented reality technology in DARLENE

In September 2020, fourteen partners in the EU joined forces and launched the three-year Horizon 2020 project DARLENE to investigate how innovative augmented reality (AR) tools can improve the capacity of law enforcement agencies (LEAs) and first responders to make well-informed and rapid decisions in real-time, particularly when such decisions can make a difference and save lives – during a response to terrorist and criminal incidents.

To ensure that this ambition is realised in conformity with fundamental European legal, ethical and societal values, including privacy and protection of personal data, Trilateral Research has been co-ordinating the development of a comprehensive, multi-layered ethical and legal oversight framework within DARLENE following an ethics-by-design approach.

Organisational-level, consortium-level and external scrutiny: the layers of oversight 

There are three layers of legal and ethical oversight within the DARLENE project. First, DARLENE partners consult their Data Protection Officers, legal advisors or ethics committees, where applicable, before making specific choices in the context of their research activities. Second, the project partners responsible for legal and ethics efforts within the project, Trilateral Research and KU Leuven, provide advice and guidance to facilitate a by-design consideration of ethical, legal and societal implications within technology development. Third, the progress of the project is being monitored by the DARLENE Ethics Advisory Board (EAB), an ad-hoc, advisory body comprised in its majority of external to and independent from the consortium professionals with legal or ethical expertise in connection with new technologies. The EAB has been set-up by the DARLENE consortium and has already held its first meeting in January 2021. The legal and ethics partners, in collaboration with the Project Coordinator (CERTH), co-ordinate the communication and collaboration among the three layers, ensuring that project partners are up-to-date with legal and ethical guidance. 

Facilitating communication through the different layers of oversight: legal and ethical collaboration

The establishment of these layers of oversight does not only seek to achieve accountability in creating innovative AR tools from a legal and ethical perspective, but also facilitates an iterative, collaborative way of thinking about legal and ethical efforts within H2020-funded research consortia. Several different methods have been put in place to sustain a continuous dialogue about legal and ethical aspects of technology development between DARLENE partners. For example, legal and ethics partners regularly talk to all partners, e.g. organising dialogue sessions, to address any questions emerging as the project progresses and elaborate on how legal and ethical requirements are complied with by-design and by-default as the project progresses. In addition, partners are provided with legal and ethical guidance via deliverables and working documents, covering such issues as the appropriate informed consent procedures and forms that partners should employ in doing research with humans, or the project’s policy on pseudonymisation and anonymisation of research data. Partners with legal and ethics expertise have also been providing internal review to the work of other partners, highlighting ethical and legal aspects that different partners should consider in their research activities.


Distinguishing between ‘external’ and ‘internal’ impacts and developing a coherent methodology for assessment

Although the legal and ethical efforts in DARLENE proceed in conjunction with technology development, which is still in early stages, a fundamental distinction in our approach has been the one between ‘internal’ and ‘external’ ethical, legal and societal impacts of the developed technology. By ‘internal’, we refer to impact that emerge during the process of conducting research activities within the project, mainly with regard to partners and research participants. The need to obtain genuine, freely-given informed consent from volunteers participating in the pilots where the project technology will be tested, or the need to consider the likelihood of incidental findings arising during the project fall within this category. ‘External’ impacts refer to the risks or benefits that stem from the potential application of the technology in real-world environments after the project, mainly considering the interests of end-users and the society more broadly. Considerations related to confining the data processing performed by the DARLENE AR technology to the minimum possible and strictly necessary amount of data exemplify such impacts.

Building on our so-far work, and relying on our multi-layered approach to overcome the translational challenges of legal and ethical oversight in multi-disciplinary research, we will be further developing a coherent methodology for integrating the work of different partners into a project-wide strategic commitment to conform to fundamental legal, ethical and societal European values.

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Stergios Aidinlis,
Trilateral Research