Use of the Internet and social media is growing exponentially, with more than 3.8 billion users worldwide. This growth brings with it a host of new challenges for those investigating and prosecuting terrorism and organized crime cases. How can electronic evidence be produced when it is stored by a service provider in another country? How can electronic evidence be preserved before it is deleted or changed in format? How can data be speedily produced from a service provider to avert an emergency?

These problems require a thorough understanding of criminal, privacy and human rights law; data protection policies; and mutual legal assistance channels. Having knowledge and access to communication service providers' up-to-date law enforcement guidelines is also essential in answering these questions.

Aiming to build the capacity of investigators and prosecutors worldwide, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) and the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP), have jointly drafted and launched the Practical Guide for Requesting Electronic Evidence Across Borders. The guide is being made available to Member States' criminal justice officials through UNODC's SHERLOC Portal, a knowledge management platform that allows for the sharing of electronic resources and laws on crime.

Elaborated in collaboration with Member States, other international and regional organizations, and communication service providers such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Uber, the Practical Guide contains information to help identify steps at national level to gather, preserve and share electronic evidence with the overall aim to ensure efficiency in mutual legal assistance practice.

The guide includes a compilation of country-specific focal points, a mapping of the major communication service providers' relevant procedures and available points of contact, legal frameworks and practical requirements for informal (police-to-police) and formal mutual legal assistance cooperation.

The Practical Guide will provide practitioners with best practice from experts in the field, legal procedures from over 20 States, and contact points to assist practitioners on how to request and produce the electronic evidence needed for trial. As well as being an essential reference tool, the Practical Guide will be used for global training to share knowledge and give practitioners the confidence to request electronic evidence quickly, legally and in an admissible format for trial.

Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime