Contact Us

Got a question? Submit below.
Your Email:
Your Message:

Mailing List




Detection Technologies, Terrorism, Ethics, and Human Rights

FP7 Security Project, 2008-11


DETECTER was a three-year Collaborative Research Project under the European Union Framework 7 Security Programme that ran from 2008-11.   


DETECTER Project Overview

Interview with Professor Tom Sorell

Interview with Professor Martin Scheinin


DETECTER identified human rights and other legal and moral standards that detection technologies in counter-terrorism must meet.  It surveyed current and foreseeable applications of detection technologies in counter-terrorism, and conducted cutting-edge legal and philosophical research into the implications of human rights and ethics for counter-terrorism in general and detection technologies in particular.


DETECTER also successfully pioneered methods of discussing ethics and human rights issues with counter-terrorism professionals using detection technologies, and with technology developers in private meetings. Its research was constantly informed by these stakeholder interactions. DETECTER research examined:


-         the ethical wrongs of terrorism and the ethical risks of preventive counter-terrorism policing, including through use of privacy-invading technologies and profiling

-          the human rights implications of unilateral exceptions to international law, especially international law on privacy, a theory of which is also constructed and defended

-          the legal implications of data-mining in counter-terrorism, by reviewing data-mining programmes, critically assessing methods of evaluation for such programmes, and finally drawing conclusions about their compatibility with international law

-          the human rights implications of pre-screening immigration controls involving detection

-          technologies, and proposed a model for the issuance of humanitarian visas for safe travel to the EU

-          the legal possibilities for better regulation of surplus information gathered in the context of Internet monitoring for counter-terrorism purposes

-          the strengths and weaknesses of current monitoring mechanisms for counter-terrorism including technology use

-          the human rights risks of selected detection technologies, in particular location-tracking technologies, the privacy implications of which are analysed in detail



DETECTER has produced a substantial body of cutting edge legal, empirical, and philosophical research, some of which has already been published in important academic journals. This research is relevant to security research programme makers and (mission-oriented) security research performers, as well as the law-enforcement consumers of security research and was disseminated to them

throughout the project at project meetings and external events. The research also supports clearly articulated applied policy recommendations for security policy makers, offering them advice on how to take counter-terrorism measures that protect both the security of European citizens and their human rights. DETECTER research and policy recommendations were presented at the DETECTER

final conference. A Lessons Learned document was drafted by Tom Sorell. It incorporates the policy recommendations emerging from DETECTER research and responses from DETECTER to criticisms of these made by counter-terrorism policy-makers as well as technology users and developers. It was disseminated to a broad mailing list as well as uploaded to the project website and posted on the LIFT blog.


Impact is achieved primarily through dissemination of research to policy makers, manufacturers and law-enforcement officials assessments of both desirable and undesirable features of detection technology products, as well as general standards for products to meet. During the lifetime of the project, presentations were made from and to technology developers and users at the DETECTER research and technology meetings. DETECTER partners have presented

and discussed the work of the project at conferences. Project deliverables were posted to the website as have videos and other multimedia material disseminating project work. And dissemination opportunities in the form of research events were organised by UoB. These include a technology user-group interaction day in Sept.2011, a one-day workshop on the themes of Terrorism, Ethics, and

Technology in August 2011, and a one-day Police Meeting in Jan 2012. A lessons learned document incorporated the policy recommendations emerging from DETECTER research and responses from DETECTER to criticisms of these made by counter-terrorism policy-makers as well as technology

users and developers. It was disseminated to a broad mailing list as well as uploaded to the project website and posted on the LIFT blog.


Videos presenting DETECTER are available on UoB’s Global Ethics youtube channel: All project deliverables have been posted on the DETECTER website.


The largest dissemination event of the project, the Final Conference (M34), was held in September 2011 in Brussels. Christiane Bernard of the EC introduced the event. Five speakers presented. Jeff Jonas, IBM and David Pepper, ex-GCHQ spoke in the morning and three MEPs with relevant interests, Renate Weber, Rui Tavares, and Jan Albrecht, followed in the afternoon. There was a good

counter-terrorism presence at the meeting with many counter-terrorism police in attendance.  Audience members included the INDECT team, academics from across the EU, campaigners for privacy, representatives from national intelligence services and national information commissioners’ offices and representation from the office of the EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator. 


Impact on policymaking through the Lessons learned document

In order to both respond to some of the reactions to DETECTER research from end-users of detection technologies, a document was produced that drew out policy recommendations from the project. At project meetings and advisory board meetings throughout the project, members of the Consortium have had the opportunity to interact repeatedly with currently serving or recently retired police and intelligence officers, technology developers, and representatives from the NGO and policy-making community. Some of these interactions have led us to modify or at least concede the need to modify our recommendations. Others have alerted us to ethical and human rights risks and responses to these risks that our deliverables did not anticipate. D19 is a summary of the associated lessons learned. These relate to: thresholds for authorised surveillance; disclosure and secrecy; surveillance of things and places versus people; human in the loop; algorithms and abnormality; dual use of technology; detection technology export ethics; counter-terrorism and border issues; data-sharing and uneven human rights sensitivities.




For more information on DETECTER, visit the blog or contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
















Powered by Joomla!. Designed by: Joomla Templates, ecommerce web hosting. Valid XHTML and CSS.