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Countering Criminal Networks: advising INTERPOL on new partnerships

Jul 24, 2024 by admin

In April, over 200 children, women, and men trafficked into forced servitude in Benin and Nigeria were rescued thanks to a complex, multi-national policing effort coordinated by INTERPOL. Over 100 police officers in different countries relied on INTERPOL’s extensive global databases to monitor identity checks at seaports, airports, markets, and border checks. Operation Epervier II gave local police access to INTERPOL’s secure data and communications system to identify criminals in real time through travel documents and biometrics. These complex systems require highly choreographed cooperation between policing agencies across territorial boundaries and legal regimes with INTERPOL at the center.

Helping INTERPOL Build Bridges to Public-Private Partnerships 2
Policy Lab briefing team enters INTERPOL headquarters Lyon, France

Helping to police transnational crimes such as terrorism, human trafficking, cybercrime, and money laundering is INTERPOL—the world’s largest international police organization, which helps to counter criminal networks by sharing its databases with 194 member countries. Law enforcement agencies around the globe can use these databases to instantly access millions of records on fingerprints, DNA, stolen motor vehicles, firearms, and travel documents among fugitives. Yet countering contemporary transnational crime has become even more challenging, as criminal networks are employing sophisticated digital technologies and communication platforms with encryption and fake identities often operating in dark web. In this area, effective engagement with the private sector has become important to global policing in gaining multidisciplinary expertise, supporting innovation, and maintaining law enforcement’s edge in countering the latest technological developments that enable cybercrime.

As part of its effort to respond quickly to the evolving threat landscape and remain at the forefront of global policing efforts, INTERPOL turned to Stanford Law Professor Allen Weiner and Lecturer Sarah Shirazyan for research assistance in identifying ways in which law enforcement can cooperate with the private sector, particularly with the technology industry. Throughout the past academic year, our team of 12 students in the Stanford Law and Policy Lab “INTERPOL’s Governance Model” practicum (Law 805Z) investigated how INTERPOL could bring together the international public sector to cooperate with private sector entities to tackle transnational crime.

Helping INTERPOL Build Bridges to New Partnerships
The team at INTERPOL. From left to right: Prof. Allen Weiner, Michelle Li (MA in Public Policy’19), Carly Eckstrom (BA, Political Science’19), Elena Crespo (BA, Political Science’20), Kaylana Mueller-Hsia (BA, International Relations’19), Yvonne Lee (BA, Political Science’19), Shushman Choudhury (PhD in Computer Science Candidate), Francesca Ginexi (LLM in Law, Science and Technology’ 19), Emma Humphris (PhD in Performance Studies), and Prof. Sarah Shirazyan. Missing in the photo: Amanda McCaffrey (J.D.’20), Victoria Noble (J.D.’20), Alex Daniel (J.D.’19), Matt Prusak (M.B.A.’20).

Our research teams, comprised of law, graduate, and undergraduate students from disciplines across the university, first examined how an array of international organizations engage with the private sector in a variety of other contexts. We then extracted lessons from private-public partnerships across 16 organizations. To understand private industry’s perspective on public-private partnerships, one team examined existing industry-led initiatives against international crime, focusing on 20 individual companies and six multilateral industry networks. Researchers studied the various incentives and risks for private sector entities willing to collaborate with law enforcement agencies, focusing on tech firms specializing in online communications, internet security, and e-commerce.

The research scoped public-private partnerships (PPPs) to find models that could work for policing agencies. The project then compared data protection laws governing private sector cooperation with international law enforcement authorities, assessing the domestic legal regimes of the UK, France, the EU, China, and the US. With a fundamental understanding of legal regimes and potential PPP models, we then interviewed stakeholders from both the public and private sectors. Students spoke to policy leaders in dozens of technology companies, ranging from such industry icons as Microsoft, Google, or Uber, to smaller startups like Chainalysis and Marinus Analytics. We then developed a second interview protocol that engaged over 30 international public servants at multiple international organizations, including the World Health Organization, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the International Labor Organization. Experts from the EU Data Protection Unit, the YouTube Global Policy Team, and due diligence officers of a leading global agency helped students refine their thinking, which resulted in findings and policy recommendations to inform the design of INTERPOL’s private-public partnership strategy.

It is not often that university students directly engage with policy decision makers at an international organization and contribute to the decision-making process through research.  Like many Stanford Law and Policy Lab research teams, this team did, briefing senior officials at INTERPOL headquarters in Lyon, France, on our findings and recommendations. Over the course of two days, we not only shared our findings but learned more about INTERPOL’s global policing tools, such as the I-Checkit screening system for border management, red notices to help detain fugitives at international border crossings, a facial recognition system to track suspects, and methods to counter foreign terrorist fighters and criminal financial networks. The two-day set of meetings concluded with a tour of INTERPOL’s Command and Coordination Center.

Francesca Ginexi (LLM ’19 in Law, Science and Technology), with a focus on international law and cybersecurity. Shushman Choudhury is a 2nd year Ph.D. student in Computer Science working on decision-making for robotics.

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