On the 29th and 30th November, GRACE held its final event at the headquarters of the Spanish National Police in Madrid. With over 90 attendees across the two days, the event was split into a closed session on the 29th dedicated to guests from law enforcement agencies to focus on the GRACE technology, while on the 30th, a public session enabled visitors from a wide range of organisations to hear about GRACE's results and connect with projects and initiatives working in the area of combatting child sexual exploitation (CSE).
With more than 35 attendees from more than 15 LEAs across Europe, the first day of the GRACE event provided a deep-dive into the GRACE technology with presentations on the overall vision for the platform as well as the data ingestion, artificial intelligence analytical modules, the intelligence tools and the collaborative platform. The attendees then got hands-on with the technology using operational data in a secure space. We are grateful to all of the LEAs who have engaged with the project throughout and provided extensive and valuable feedback to improve the whole platform. We also hugely appreciate the tireless effort from our hosts, the technical partners and Europol for preparing the data, setting up the secure room, and deploying the tools ready for the event.
The public event offered a packed schedule providing a rich and varied agenda focused not only on the GRACE results but also hugely beneficial views on the policy environment, the broader role for GRACE and corresponding work from other projects and initiatives in combatting CSE.
The event opened with a quick introduction from GRACE Coordinator Peter Leskovsky, before some opening remarks from Annette Cassar of DG Home on the R&I context for GRACE, the CSE policy environment and the opportunities for future research in this space. This was followed by a keynote speech from Cathal Delaney from Thorn, looking at the ways technology can support the ever-growing number of CSAM reports.
Attendees were then treated to an overview of the GRACE project including a new video summarising the project, key results and achievements. A presentation from Europol's Anton Toni Klančnik on the Guidelines for First Responders complemented this alongside a view on the ontology.
After a short break, the technology partners presented an overview of the GRACE technical solution including,
- Data ingestion presented by Bernardo Pacheo from INOV
- GRACE collaborative platform from Salvatore Vicari from Engineering Ingeneria Informatica
- Intelligence tools from Ethan Collins at CENTRIC
- AI analysis tools from Arantza de Pozon from Vicomtech
- Federated learning from Anastasios Dimou from CERTH.
We were then fortunate to receive an address from the Spanish National Police, and we had the opportunity to thank all LEA representatives involved in the project for their support, input and feedback over the last three and a half years.
In the afternoon, Anton Toni Klančnik of Europol kicked off and moderated a panel session from fellow projects and initiatives, beginning with policy recommendations and best practices. We were fortunate to be joined by Juan Arraiza from EACTDA and TOOLS4LEAS, who focused on how they are supporting organisations and LEAs to bridge the gap between R&I projects and operational use of technology in the security area; Nizar Touleimat, coordinator of STARLIGHT which is focused on the use and development of artificial intelligence to address security challenges including combatting CSE, Jesus Alonso from HEROES which is looking at the intersection of CSE and trafficking. Steven Ormston then brought the perspective of CYCLOPES - a network of practitioners addressing various aspects of cybercrime while Jos Flury from the AVIATOR project explained their approach to developing solutions to support investigators in managing CSE investigations. John Mulcahy rounded up the presentations from EMPOWER, a Digital Europe project that works to increase the maturity of technology solutions emerging from security R&I projects.
Annette and Cathal then joined the presenters for a short moderated panel discussion concentrating on the opportunities for future technology development, the role of artificial intelligence, mechanisms to support technology uptake, and the future policy environment. We thank all speakers for making the time to attend and for their insightful and thoughtful discussions.
Finally, the event finished with a perspective on the key exploitable results, including the ethical and legal outputs and review mechanisms, the GRACE serious game, developed in support of the first responder guidelines and a final look towards the legacy of GRACE and what might come next.
Thank you to all speakers, attendees and organisers for making the event a huge success.
Watch a quick recap video of the event here