EU launches Blockchain surveillance research

A group of fifteen consortium members from seven European countries has initiated this week a new project to curtail criminals and attackers from using blockchain technology to avoid law detection, while at the same time respecting the privacy rights of legitimate users.

The researchers are in a consortium undertaking a three-year, €5 million project, funded by the European Union aimed at developing technical solutions for investigating and mitigating crime and terrorism involving virtual currencies and underground market transactions.

As part of their project, which is called TITANIUM (Tools for the Investigation of Transactions in Underground Markets), the researchers plan to test and validate their tools and services on the premises of the LEAs to assess the effectiveness and overall impact of the project results.

Participants include Interpol, Interior Ministries from Spain and Austria, Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation, and University College London, among others.

In statements, the project’s backers cited a recent wave of ransomware attacks around the globe, pointing to the event as a justification for beefing up the ability to track cryptocurrency payments.

The researchers, including four law enforcement agencies (LEAs) and INTERPOL, aim to develop and implement tools to reveal common characteristics of criminal transactions, detect anomalies in their usage, and identify money-laundering techniques. The researchers will also conduct training activities in order to develop skills and knowledge among EU law enforcement agencies.

At the same time, those involved pledged not to violate user privacy rights.

To counter such activities, Dr King said it was necessary to develop efficient and effective forensics tools enabling the reasonable use of different types of data from different sources including virtual currency ledgers, online forums, peer-to-peer networks of underground markets, and seized devices.

Dr. King also emphasised that the tools developed within the TITANIUM project will respect individual privacy and other fundamental rights.

“The consortium will analyse legal and ethical requirements and define guidelines for storing and processing data, information, and knowledge involved in criminal investigations without compromising citizen privacy.”

That the EU would take this approach – let alone fund one – is perhaps unsurprising, given past efforts and statements from leaders and officials of the economic bloc.

The EU’s executive branch, the European Council, began pushing aggressively for greater oversight of digital currency users in early 2016, with the European Parliament following suit earlier this year.

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