Marine Corhay awarded a FRESH grant for her research on cooperation between law enforcement authorities and ICT service providers


How to protect the right to privacy and the right to data protection when actors such as Facebook or WhatsApp are called upon to collaborate in criminal investigations? Marine Corhay's research focuses on this vast problem.

Can you tell us more about your thesis project?

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have not only revolutionized the way we communicate, but also pose unprecedented challenges for law enforcement authorities. Indeed, the digital data we generate is usually processed and controlled by ICT service providers, such as Facebook or Whatsapp for example, which are located outside our borders. Thus, in order to access this data, which is useful, even crucial, in many criminal investigations, law enforcement authorities need the collaboration of these private actors.

For some time now, States have been trying, with varying degrees of success, to get these private actors to cooperate, so that a new paradigm of direct cooperation between public and private actors has emerged. The European legislator intends to institutionalize this paradigm, but it raises questions in terms of fundamental rights, particularly with regard to the right to privacy and the right to protection of personal data.

My thesis project intends to analyze the legal framework protecting these two rights in order to adapt it to this new mode of direct cooperation between law enforcement authorities and ICT service providers. My project will focus on the role that should be given to ICT service providers in the protection of these fundamental rights.

What led you to become interested in this subject?

When I joined the criminal law department, I very quickly developed an interest in issues related to digital evidence. I was interested in the draft laws currently under discussion at the European level.

I chose this subject for my thesis because the involvement of a private actor in the protection of fundamental rights is a question that is subject to debate and touches on the founding principles of our legal system and our society. It leads us to question our traditional conceptions. This subject is also at the crossroads between three areas of law that I am passionate about: criminal law, fundamental rights and data protection.

What can this research tell us about today's society?

Our smartphones, computers and other connected objects have become the receptacle of an important part of our private life. ICT has a prominent place in our daily lives, even more so in these times of physical distance.

ICT service providers have become an increasingly important part of our society and we, as ICT users, are forced to trust them. At the same time, we are also becoming increasingly aware of the use of our data, both by private companies and public authorities, and of the role that ICT service providers play in protecting our data and our privacy.

What are the next steps for your research?

In a first step, I will look at the obligations of ICT service providers contained in the European legislation. The aim is to prepare the interviews I plan to conduct with these actors in the coming months. I would also like to start planning my first research trip.

His background

Marine holds a Master's degree in law with a specialization in criminal law from the University of Liège, as well as a complementary Master's degree in public international law from the University of Nottingham. For the last two years, she was an assistant in the criminal law department. She also wrote a study on data protection in the European Public Prosecutor's Office for the European Data Protection Supervisor together with Prof. Vanessa Franssen.

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