Introduction and Critical Reflections on Forensic Health and Data

Session Report
Bhanvi Bansal

An online International Summer School Program on “Data, Monitoring and Evaluation” is a two-month immersive online hands-on certificate training course organised by IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi. The session was on “Introduction and Critical Reflections on Forensic Health and Data”  by Prof Vina Vaswani. She is the Director, Centre for Ethics, and Professor, Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, Yenepoya (Deemed to be) University, Mangalorean. Inaugurating the session Fiza Mahajan, a researcher at IMPRI, welcomed the speakers and participants to the program with an introduction to the eminent panellists. 

Introduction

She initiated the need to differentiate between forensic and healthcare data as there are a lot of communalities but in the same hand there are a lot of dimensions as well. Moreover healthcare data is used to upgrade healthcare systems and bring development whereas forensic data is used to track criminals. Forensic data helps us to track fraud, breach, misuse, abuse, corruption, non-compliance and many other things. As a result, data application requires machine learning, natural language processing, and robotic process automation. Forensic data focuses on investigations and a wide range of potential triggers such as data removal, data transmission, encryption, third party misuse, Artificial Intelligence and Analytics. 

Applications of Forensic data

Then she discussed about applications of forensic data that is used for medical legal investigations and draw a comparative difference between determining the cause of death when it is unnatural or death due to crime and the services include Digital Forensics and Investigation, AI and Data Analytics Review, Data Mapping and Governance, Vendor Data due Diligence, Data Privacy and Compliance and Data Recovery.

Moving further she discussed about database forensics as it is the branch of digital forensic science relating to forensic study of databases and their related metadata and it helped to examine who had taken database access and what actions had been taken. Then she briefly mentioned about the benefits of the database as it helped in Crime Solving and Prevention, Revaluation of unsolved cases by matching new evidence against existing records, identification of unknown individuals and exoneration of the innocent.

Progressively she also taught how to analysis forensic data as it examined structured data in cases of financial crime and aimed to discover and analyses pattern of crimes and unstructured data is used when there is no definite structure. She further explained the methods of data collection one was inclusive method and the second one was diligence method.

Ethical issues

Ethical issues in forensic data were also discussed as forensic data includes personal information of individuals who may not willingly provide their data for forensic analysis so balance needs to be maintained between providing justice and then safeguarding individual privacy rights and consent should be taken before collecting data while keeping in mind the potential consequences of data sharing and retention.

Then she emphasises on ensuring accuracy and reliability while collecting data as these two components are of paramount importance as they will impact the lives and liberties of people and also methods and techniques used to collect, analyse and interpret data should be scientifically validated and transparent. While collecting data ethical concerns should be taken into consideration as they had the potential for bias, human error, or misuse of technology that could lead to wrongful convictions or the overlooking of exculpatory evidence.

In order to maintain integrity of data proper preservation and storage of the same it is essential as well as protecting it from tampering or loss and establishing clear protocols for the retention and disposal of data. Stricter regulations and oversight should be ensured to mitigate the risk of data mishandling and unauthorised access to data.

Use of data had several risks associated with it that could cause significant disruptions to a business therefore managing data integrity had become essential along with the goal of protecting private information. Moreover, along with privacy and security, the use of AI and analytics could also ensure other legal and compliance concerns. She also mentioned other dimensions of relevant data that were transparency and disclosure as these were essential for maintaining public trust in the criminal justice system.

Also, disclosure of limitations, assumptions and potential errors associated with forensic models were essential. Concluding the session she further discussed technological advancements in forensic data along with necessity for the fairness and justice and described some of the benefits and social and ethical costs concerned with forensic data. She also threw light upon the presence of bias and challenges in forensic data and stressed upon maintaining a legal and regulatory framework for ensuring data transparency in data management.

The lecture was followed by an interactive question and answer session which facilitated a more nuanced understanding of the topics covered and cultivated a critical understanding among the participants about data protection especially in forensic sciences. Concluding the session, Fiza Mahajan, researcher at IMPRI further thanked Prof Vina Vaswani for an insightful session and then moved forward to the next session.

Acknowledgement: Bhanvi Bansal is a research intern at IMPRI.

Read more session reports on web policy learning events conducted by IMPRI:

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