The issues of possible revictimisation, as highlighted by

ultimate aim of the study is to serve as a tool to advocate for States to
allocate the needed resources to identify child victims of sexual abuse and
exploitation. To contribute to the production of a set of metrics and address
the situation of a specific vulnerable and exploited group of children, it was
necessary to access and analyse data contained in the ICSE Database, as noted
above. The scope of the research was therefore limited to, and defined by, the
available data. Benefits and harm to
research subjects

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requirement described above to access and code data from CSAM/CSEM series
recalled a series of ethical challenges in the management of CSAM/CSEM data in
law enforcement contexts, and issues of possible revictimisation, as
highlighted by authors such as Palmer (2005) and Quayle (2008). These
challenges relate to the victim’s awareness that their abuse has been
discovered and viewed by law enforcement, and their inability to determine
whether, or under what conditions, their imagery is used to support law
enforcement activity. While there may be justification for certain practices,
such as acquiring evidence for prosecution or for the identification of victims,
there is a more fundamental concern about how law enforcement’s concern with
victim identification and offender apprehension can supersede and invalidate
the needs, wishes and interests of child subjects of these materials (Quayle,

respond to these issues, the Collaboration Agreement between the partners,
together with a Research Protocol detailed the data that would be accessed by
ECPAT’s research lead, and the conditions under which this data would be
accessed, handled and applied in the context of the project. Central to these
arrangements was:

      the anonymised extraction of case
data from the database, such that no personal or identifying data relating to
the child subjects of this study would be released to non-law enforcement
members of the research team in the process of data collection or analysis

      the agreement that any visual
analysis of CSAM/CSEM data could only be conducted under highly controlled
conditions and by suitably experienced researcher

      the exclusion of non-distributed
series from the sample made available to ECPAT’s research lead for visual
analysis. These series are afforded special protections within international
law enforcement databases to ensure no inadvertent distribution of the series
and revictimisation of the featured child victim, and were therefore considered
ineligible for inclusion in the visual analysis component of the studyJN1F1  . Ethical issues in the
research design

project did not require direct engagement with children. However, in view of
the major project objectives, the project required access to sensitive (i.e.
personal and law enforcement-sensitive) information pertaining to individual
cases of unidentified victims of online CSAM/CSEM housed in the ICSE Database. 

the Collaboration Agreement and Research Protocol ensured that accessed data
were not linkable to identified individuals, there remained ethical risks which
called for careful and systematic attention to privacy and confidentiality: (1)
to child victims, including in the event that they might later be individually
identified; (2) to national and international law enforcement sources of the
CSAM/CSEM and related data, and (3) to the safety and well-being – and
potentially the reputation – of the organisations and researchers participating
in the study. These concerns called for thorough and systematic protection and
management of the research data at all stages, as well as the thorough
documentation of the chain of permissions required to access and analyse the
data throughout the project.
Respect for research subjects and informed consent

study involved an analysis of case records of seized CSAM/CSEM series,
featuring unidentified victims uploaded by law enforcement agencies around the
world to the INTERPOL ICSE Database. Given the unidentified status of these
cases, it was not possible to secure the informed consent of the children whose
case data was analysed in this research. However, this did not negate the
research partners’ duty of care to the needs and interests of unidentified
children whose data featured in the study.

view of the fact that the research was not directly performed with INTERPOL
personnel or ICSE Database users, the traditional informed consent process used
for research with human subjects was not required. However, as ‘data
administrators’ or ‘gatekeepers’ to the data relating to unidentified victims
in the ICSE Database, the consent of the national specialised units connected
to the ICSE Database was sought in order for their case-related data to be
included in the study.