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Istituto Europeo per lo Sviluppo Socio Economico

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Istituto Europeo per lo Sviluppo Socio Economico


European Antitrust Forensic IT Tools

This project builds upon two previous ISEC co-funded projects, carried out within the context of the ISEC funding programme, under a Framework Partnership Agreement on "Forensic use of digital information as evidence in Antitrust investigations". One of the most important tasks related to inspections is the collection of digital and forensic evidence (Forensic IT; FIT) and the administration related thereto. The European Commission and the National Competition Authorities (NCAs) cooperate with each other through the European Competition Network (ECN), an effective mechanism to counter companies which engage in cross-border practices restricting competition (see the Commission Notice on cooperation within the Network of Competition Authorities, OJ C 101, 27.04.2004). Within this institutional framework, the ECN Forensic IT working group has been established (late 2010) to serve as a forum for the exchange of information and best practices on technical and legal issues surrounding the use of Forensic IT tool, where there is a high degree of variation between different Member States. Differences between Member States laws and practices are especially evident when NCAs assist each other in collecting digital/forensic evidence pursuant to Article 22 of Regulation 1/2003 and, even more so, where inspections are carried out in parallel by several NCAs; e.g., different legal possibilities to collect digital evidence, legal professional privilege and other exempted materials, different time limits for collecting evidence, use of search terms, use of equipment and tools. In particular, NCAs may use different FIT tools, which means that the possibility to index, search, sort and extract material may differ between Member States. The two previous ISEC projects aimed to build Forensic IT investigation capacity within NCAs, and a leveled playing field has been achieved among NCAs in this field. The present project directly addresses the issue of convergence among investigative protocols and tools adopted by NCAs. Its aim is threefold and it is structured in as many phases: (1) to develop a digital forensic tool explicitly designed to meet the needs of the European CAs, where a set of requirements that is widely shared among the NCAs will be elicited. Interviews and workshops will be used in order to collect these requirements. A software requirements document will be produced (first deliverable), which will state what the system developers should implement. (2) Subsequently, the already existing open source tools will be recognized and classified, in order to create a map between CA requirements and the existing libraries of opensource tools. Quality and reliability, as well as documentation and long term support will be evaluated. Selected categories of existing software will be documented and classified (second deliverable). (3) Finally, the selected open source tools will be used as building blocks in order to develop a prototype of an European Antitrust Forensic IT tool, and implement also a workflow manager (customized for every CA participating in the initiative) that will drive the work of the FIT experts and case-handlers. A final 3-day workshop will be delivered in order to train up the investigators of the involved CAs. The project is realized through a partnership between the University of Roma Tre, which will provide a highly skilled technical team of computer scientists and researchers, supported by a few FIT experts of the most advanced NCAs in the field, and a wide participation of FIT examiners belonging to most of the European NCAs (18 NCAs official partners, but around 30 participating European NCAs expected, not limited to EU Member States). The duration is 24 month, with an estimated effort of the technical team of about 1,650 man/days. The large partnerships will ensure that the project's outcomes will spread out over most of the European countries.

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