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Open Surveillance

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An artistic representation of electronic investigation.

An encrypted search system developed by Yale University researchers could allow law enforcement to collect data more openly without compromising investigations, according to a Yale professor.

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Yale University researchers have developed an encrypted search system that could enable law enforcement officials to collect data more openly without compromising investigations, writes Yale professor Bryan Ford. He says the system, which he co-created, could enable agencies to extract warrant-authorized data about suspects while guarding the privacy of innocent users.

Ford notes existing surveillance processes that collect or handle bulk data or metadata often gather information about people who are not specifically targeted by a warrant. In order to gain access to unencrypted surveillance data, law enforcement agencies must now identify people whose actions warrant further investigation and then demonstrate probable cause.

"The details of an investigation need not be public, but the data-collection process should be--what was collected, from whom, and how it was decrypted," Ford says. "This is no different from the way the police traditionally use an open process to obtain physical search warrants without publicly revealing details of their investigation."

Ford says the new system will help re-establish the fact that democracy rests on the principle that legal processes must be open and public.

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