Open Source Investigations Protocol

Open Source Investigations Protocol


The Human Rights Center is spearheading a collaborative effort to develop an International Protocol on Open Source Investigations (Protocol), which will set common standards and guidelines for the identification, collection, preservation, verification and analysis of online open source information with an aim towards improving its effective use in international criminal and human rights investigations. Establishing legal and ethical norms for online open source investigations will professionalize the field and, in doing so, increase the likelihood that such information will be useful for justice and accountability purposes. 

This process is similar past efforts to develop standards around investigating tortureextrajudicial executions, and sexual violence in conflict. These past initiatives were essential steps to help lawyers and judges better understand how to evaluate new investigative techniques, and guide first responders and civil society groups on how to collect information in a manner consistent with legal requirements. The Protocol will serve as a resource for practitioners, as well as a valuable training and teaching tool for those using OSINT and online investigations to assess security risks, protect witnesses, track fugitives, monitor crime data, develop investigative leads, and collect evidence. 

Expert Consultations

As part of the development process, the Human Rights Center has consulted with a wide-range of actors and organizations from diverse multidisciplinary backgrounds in order to build an expert community around this initiative. This community includes investigators, analysts, archivists, technologists, lawyers and judges from international organizations, international courts and tribunals, national law enforcement, private companies, journalism, human rights activism, and non-governmental organizations.

Workshops and Roundtables

Draft sections of the Protocol are being already being vetted with various expert groups. All expert workshops and roundtables are by invite only. 

Past Events: 

  • Roundtable to Explore Legal Issues Arising from Open Source Investigations in The Hague, Netherlands on April 12, 2019
  • Workshop on Cybersecurity in Online Open Source Investigations at UC Berkeley,  May 6-7, 2019
  • RightsCon Strategic Roundtable in Tunis, Tunisia on June 11-14, 2019
  • Workshop on Building an Ethical Framework for Open Source Investigation in Essex University, United Kingdom on January 28-29, 2019
  • The New Forensics: Using Open Source Information to Investigate Grave Crimes at the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center in Italy on  October 2-6, 2017