Innovations in the solutions used to access digital evidence from devices have made gathering data in the field easier than ever. What many border agencies are wrestling with as they transform the way they handle modern digital investigations, however, is how to streamline the evidence-collection process.

Managing data to protect the chain of evidence and ensure compliance has never been more important, especially for border agencies that often need to share information with other units and outside agencies.

In this blog, we’ll take a look at some best practices border agencies should be following to secure digital intelligence (DI). We’ll also address how a well-planned workflow process, supported by the right tools, can ensure that the right information gets to the right people at the right time to solve more cases faster.

The Power Of Transformation

Border agencies are radically rethinking the way they handle investigations. In essence, a new nexus is being created whereby technological capabilities (digital intelligence solutions) are finally meeting organizational capabilities (people and processes). This results in policies and procedures that are being integrated into workflows via technology to achieve a streamlined digital evidence management system (DEMS) that is both more efficient and, from a manager’s standpoint, enforceable.

This lies at the heart of what digital transformation is all about—having the right tools and processes in place (DEMS) so that the right people can access the right data at the right time to move cases forward more swiftly. DEMS also ensures that the digital evidence chain remains secure. Here’s how it breaks down.

Managing For Success

Border agencies worldwide are facing serious challenges. Massive population migrations, the threat of terrorists, human traffickers, and other criminals moving across borders with impunity, and the ongoing flow of contraband from narcotics to wildlife all add layers of stress on top of border security systems and personnel that are already overtaxed.

This is where the core components of a DI solution for borders—case management/orchestration, and device/asset management —come into play. However, such solutions cannot be fully effective unless they are employed against a sound DI border strategy that includes the following:

  1. Workflow enforcement: Agencies should be able to digitize, integrate, and enforce internal and external processes with customizable consent and agency forms. Border investigators should have the ability to add “Investigation Notes” throughout the digital-data-collection process. Border agents should also be able to include their observations or report on any issues encountered during the data-gathering process. This creates a strong audit trail for actions taken and decisions made.

  2. Workflow guidance: Administrators and managers should be able to customize guidance notes through the workflow process to guide others on SOP. Instructions, and tips and tricks, that can be passed along to the team, will be especially valuable in helping less-experienced users understand processes.

  3. Asset Management: Some agencies may have to manage hundreds of data-collection tools in the field. Agencies need to consider: remote support, license updates, and data transfer. However, field personnel may not always have connectivity. Agency managers need to be able to manage DI tools that are offline or not connected to the organizational network.

  4. Ensuring Privacy: Depending on the region and circumstances, most initiatives involving data collection will be met with scrutiny. This forces agencies to walk a thin line between maintaining public consent and being vilified as overstepping their authority and intruding into people’s personal information. Border agencies need the right tools and training to mitigate privacy concerns and show the communities they protect that they have their best interests in mind.

Fortunately, a wide range of digital solutions are available that address all of the above concerns. One of the simplest solutions being used by many police forces is digital kiosks.

These simple tools, which are being employed by a number of law enforcement agencies worldwide, have been used very effectively to mitigate the privacy violation argument. Their success, however, has hinged on departments being transparent about how kiosks are used and having sound processes in place that protect privacy.

According to Digit author Duncan MacRae, Police Scotland has taken a number of critical steps to explain how kiosk technology works while providing the legal basis for using kiosks to fight child sexual abuse and other crimes. More importantly, they’ve taken time to explain the manner in which kiosks will be used to protect privacy and how this technology will positively impact communities.

By being transparent about what they are collecting, how the information will be securely stored (and when it will be deleted), Police Scotland has eliminated a lot of pushback.

So far, the feedback has been extremely positive, thanks in large part to communicating with the community upfront. As MacRae’s article states, “Significant consultation has been undertaken with external advisory and stakeholder groups and Police Scotland held a series of public engagement events on digital forensics…”

In an article posted on the Scottish Police Federation’s site, Assistant Chief Constable, Steve Johnson, puts the legal argument against using kiosks to rest by saying, “that the force was now ‘entirely satisfied’ that there was a legal basis for the ‘digital device triage systems.’“

As Police Scotland has shown, educating the public about the benefits of using kiosks and being transparent about what data will be used is critical. Using kiosks does require some organizational restructuring and training, but the potential benefits for border agencies to simplify workflows, while gathering critical evidence quickly when needed, are huge.

Our next blog will cover the third step on the road to providing actionable intelligence for border security, which is data analytics.

For More On Border Security

Download the eBookSolving Your Border Challenges with Digital Intelligence” to learn more about how Cellebrite’s digital intelligence solutions for border security can help your organization.

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