European Journal of Policing Studies


What Are They Doing in the Dark?

Police Strategies and Working Methods in Fighting Crime on the Tor Network

Keywords dark web, tor, ACN, criminal investigation, law enforcement
Authors Bram Emmen, Christianne de Poot en Wouter Stol
Author's information

Bram Emmen
Bram Emmen is PhD candidate at the Open University of the Netherlands.

Christianne de Poot
Christianne de Poot is Endowed Professor at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Wouter Stol
Wouter Stol is Endowed Professor at the Open University of the Netherlands. Funding: This work was supported by NordForsk [ grant 80512] within the call for collaborative research projects on Society, Integrity and Cyber-security and is part of the “Police detectives on the Tor network” project.
  • Abstract

      The dark web is creating difficulties for traditional policing. Previous studies have focused on users, but very little is known about law enforcement dealing with the core challenge of Anonymity Communication Networks: absent and anonymous suspects whose locations and identities are effectively hidden behind encryption. Based on 14 interviews with Dutch police officers and public prosecutors, enriched with a media analysis of 45 Dutch newspaper articles, we come to a model of Dutch law enforcement dealing with Tor cases. We observe that the police are adapting to the new reality of Tor use. However, they still work within their set framework which does not always match the needs for policing Tor cases. We additionally note a more prominent place for the strategy of disruption which may create the need for additional legal grounds.

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