Research Center for Digital Sustainability

NRP77 Open Justice vs. Privacy

The judiciary is expected to provide access to court decisions on the one hand and to protect privacy with the "right to be forgotten" on the other. With the project "Open Justice vs. Privacy", research is being conducted within the framework of the National Research Programme "Digital Transformation" (NRP 77) on legal and technical solutions as to how these two demands, which are based on fundamental rights, can be fulfilled. This interdisciplinary project is being carried out in cooperation with the Digital Sustainability Research Unit at the Institute of Computer Science (Faculty of Humanities and Natural Sciences), the Competence Centre for Public Management (Faculty of Law), and the Institute of Information Systems (Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences). 

Portrait of the project on the NRP77 website

With Justitia 4.0, the electronic court file is to be introduced largely across the board in Switzerland as well. More and more courts are publishing their judgments on the Internet. At the same time, technical developments (e.g., artificial intelligence) are increasingly enabling the de-anonymization of published judgments. So far, there is no interdisciplinary research on the anonymization of court judgments. The opinion of social groups on the publication of judgments on the Internet has also not been researched.

The intended publications in scientific journals, as well as two dissertations, are to create a sound legal and technical basis to what extent the current anonymization of court decisions has weaknesses and to show how these can be corrected. This will be done in close cooperation with the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ), the Swiss Association of Judges (SVR), and the association eJustice.CH.

First, the legal framework for handling court decisions or electronic court records and making them available to the public is determined. Second, by analyzing court decisions, it will be explored what information can be extracted from anonymized court decisions using artificial intelligence (natural language processing). Third, to evaluate the positions of the different stakeholders in the judicial system (courts, lawyers, litigants, media, society), the opinions of experts and the attitude of the public towards the tension between transparency and privacy will be identified and analyzed. Finally, a reconciliation of interests will be carried out and general rules for dealing with court rulings will be formulated.

As a concrete result of this research project, an online platform will be developed that courts can use to evaluate their anonymized court decisions with regard to the potential risk of de-anonymization. Furthermore, this tool will enable courts to anonymize court rulings in a way that minimizes the potential re-identification of litigants. Furthermore, general guidelines for the publication of judgments are to be created.