Tracking corona infections: German Luca app in a downfall

Five Länder no longer renew their contracts with culture4life, the company’s new business model could also run into turbulence

So far, 13 German federal states have used the Luca app to warn of Corona infections, but at least five governments want to do without it in the future. Most recently, Berlin announced that it would no longer extend its contract with the manufacturer culture4life GmbH. Previously, Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Bremen dropped out. According to Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg, Brandenburg is also planning to end its use.

The Luca app is used in restaurants, cafés, shops, but also public institutions. Hosts and organisers can create a QR code that visitors can then scan with the app and leave their personal data. Conversely, it is possible for the host to read a QR code stored on the mobile phone at the entrance control. The service also works without an app via an internet browser. „Tracking corona infections: German Luca app in a downfall“ weiterlesen

Chat control: Schengen states should promote decryption of messengers

The EU Commission is collecting outstanding cases with which it can promote the interception of messengers. Great Britain is going even further.

In six weeks, the European Commission plans to present its proposal for „legislation to effectively combat child sexual abuse“. According to the meeting calendar, this could take place on 2 March as things stand.

Presumably, the package also includes the long-awaited proposal for a regulation to identify, remove and report „illegal online content“ to combat child sexual abuse. Providers of messenger services or chat programmes would be obliged to automatically search their customers‘ communication for relevant material and make it accessible to law enforcement.

Originally, the planned regulation was already announced for spring of last year. The reason for the delay is probably the explosive nature of the law. It also affects encrypted content, including services such as Signal, Threema or Whatsapp. MEP Patrick Breyer has coined the catchword chat control for this forced screening. As with data retention, this is a mass surveillance of all citizens without any reason. „Chat control: Schengen states should promote decryption of messengers“ weiterlesen

Berlin-Kreuzberg: Social Democrats want to set up police station in left-wing scene district

Against the opposition of their own party, the Berlin SPD interior senate wants to station police permanently at Berlin’s „Kotti“. However, the senate fears a „partly anti-police scene“. Therefore, the new building will be protected by permanent patrols and more video surveillance.

The interior senate led by the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in Berlin wants to set up a new police station at Kottbusser Tor in Kreuzberg that will operate 24/7. It is to „significantly increase the presence and visibility of the police in the left-wing scene district“, explained Interior Senator Iris Spranger on Monday after a closed meeting of the Berlin Senate. This would also strengthen a „sense of security“. The entire square has been considered a „crime-ridden area“ (kbO) since 1996. Police are allowed to check identity papers and search people and things there without suspicion of a crime.

The „Kotti“ is a large street intersection with an underground transfer station in the middle of the former postal delivery area „36“. All around, restaurants and shops have settled, the blocks of houses built in the 1970s by „Deutsche Wohnen AG“ were only recently bought up by the state-owned Gewobag Wohnungsbau-Aktiengesellschaft after successful struggles by the „I love Kotti“ campaign. With about 70 per cent, the Kotti has the highest percentage of people with a migration history in Berlin. „Berlin-Kreuzberg: Social Democrats want to set up police station in left-wing scene district“ weiterlesen

European Cyber Exercise: Digital Attacks from „Blue Land“

For five weeks, EU member states will simulate attacks on their critical infrastructures. For the first time, the threshold of an armed attack will be surpassed. The rehearsal includes the provision of assistance in accordance with EU treaties, and the NATO case of alliance could also be triggered.

In the summer of 2017, Saudi Arabia almost suffered its first major disaster after a cyber attack. Unknown persons had infected the control system of a petrochemical plant with malware called „Triton“. The apparently planned shutdown of the plant might have caused explosions, possibly leading to the escape of hydrogen sulphide and thus to an environmental disaster with hundreds of deaths. A security system detected the intruder and stopped the sabotage.

Now the EU member states want to prepare for such a hacking attack with a „EU Cyber Crisis Linking Exercise on Solidarity“ (EU CyCLES). The starting point is assumed to be attacks with „significant kinetic effects and casualties“. The EU then activates its technical, operational and political cybersecurity structures. Other member states also provide mutual assistance. „European Cyber Exercise: Digital Attacks from „Blue Land““ weiterlesen

Space-Eye: Satellite surveillance from underneath

High-resolution images from earth observation could help with non-governmental sea rescues in the Mediterranean. However, these have to be purchased from commercial providers, because openly accessible images from EU satellites are of low quality. An initiative now wants to enrich this data with other sources and evaluate it with algorithms.

The EU border agency Frontex uses satellites to stop unwanted migration to Europe. As part of the EUROSUR surveillance system, Frontex has set up various services to automatically detect ships and boats carrying refugees with the help of aircraft, drones and also satellites. Frontex then informs the relevant coast guards of the sighting; North African authorities then return the boat occupants to countries such as Libya or Tunisia. The satellite data comes from the Sentinels of the EU’s „Copernicus“ earth observation programme; Frontex also buys higher-resolution images from private providers. In addition to Frontex, the EU’s maritime safety agency EMSA also maintains a satellite-based monitoring system, „CleanSeaNet“.

The German association Space-Eye is now also experimenting with the use of satellite data. The information is intended to help rescue organisations take on board people in distress at sea and bring them to a safe harbour. The association’s satellite working group consists of a dozen scientists and students. For the interview, i spoke with development engineer Elli Wittmann, Steffen Merseburg and Jonathan. „Space-Eye: Satellite surveillance from underneath“ weiterlesen

More German state police forces introduce tasers for patrol police

Four out of 16 federal states are now introducing electric pulse weapons across the board. The right-wing conservative police union DPolG has declared itself to be the mastermind and is sponsored by a manufacturer. Whether the officers will use less violence with the new weapons, as claimed, is questionable. Every year there are two deaths in Germany after being tasered

Shortly after the end of a pilot project in five large cities, the state parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia approved another 4.5 million Euros for the procurement of 620 Tasers. The weapons, in Germany known to the police as „distance electric pulse devices“, are now to be used in twelve more cities, including Aachen, Bochum, Gütersloh, Münster and Wuppertal, as well as parts of the Sauerland region. Currently, there are 766 Tasers in use by the police of Germany’s largest state, according to two Paderborn MPs. Altogether, the stock will thus be expanded to more than 1,360 devices; the total cost of the procurement is 8.5 million euros. This also includes training.

Only recently, the German Press Agency (dpa) had presented figures after a survey. According to this, the police in North Rhine-Westphalia drew the taser almost 160 times in their pilot test until the end of September 2021. This involved 123 threats and 31 actual firings. Two times, the devices were used in contact mode, where the electric shock is delivered directly to the target’s body without the usual wires. „More German state police forces introduce tasers for patrol police“ weiterlesen

China: Algorithm law for „positive energy“

The government in Beijing has passed a globally unique regulation for consumer protection on the internet

China installed a new law on Tuesday to rein in algorithms on the internet. The hitherto unique regulation covers applications that make further purchase or reading recommendations to their users based on their behaviour. In future, it will be forbidden to entice customers to excessively spend money or to make them dependent on an internet service. Software-based pricing, if it is to the detriment of consumers, will therefore also be prohibited. After all, operators must prevent fraud and unfair competition, as well as ensure that no false or illegal content is published. The apps should instead „promote positive energy“.

The law affects a wide range of companies, including internet marketplaces such as Alibaba, which has now become a mega-corporation with numerous integrated apps. Delivery service providers must also now revise their technology. The law furthermore addresses the social networks TikTok or Douyin, which are popular among young people and bombard their users with ever new content. „China: Algorithm law for „positive energy““ weiterlesen

Kazakhstan: No internet and cryptocurrency problems

To stop protests, the government in Nur-Sultan restricts digital communication

The mass protests against increased fuel prices in Kazakhstan are having an impact on digital communication in the former Soviet republic. For the second day in a row, the internet was completely shut down yesterday, and mobile telephony was disrupted as well. Some Kazakh television stations also temporarily suspended their operations.

The background of the restrictions is unclear, but it seems that the government wants to prevent further protests. This is also indicated by the fact that the internet services were restarted at the very time when President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev was giving a speech. He called the demonstrators „terrorist gangs“ and announced that he would ask the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation for help. A few hours after his speech, the country’s connectivity dropped to zero again.
It is not the first time such a measure has been taken. The Kazakh authorities have, for example, limited the internet during several elections and the „National Day of Victory“. „Kazakhstan: No internet and cryptocurrency problems“ weiterlesen

War in Ethiopia: Armed drones could be again a gamechanger

In a surprise move, the Ethiopian military was able to stop the advance of attacking Tigray rebels on the capital, according to international media reports, with the help of armed drones. Allegedly „Bayraktar TB2“ ordered in Turkey have not been sighted anywhere so far. However, competitors from China and Iran have been documented.

Ethiopia has been in a civil war with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) for 14 months. The rebels from the region bordering Eritrea are discontent with the policies of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. After taking office in April 2018, the 43-year-old lifted the state of emergency, released prisoners and promised to fight corruption. As a result, the TPLF, which had been powerful until then, also lost political influence.

Only a few weeks ago, the Tigrinese rebels were on the verge of entering the capital Addis Ababa, but the tide has now turned decisively. On 20 December, the TPLF surprisingly announced a ceasefire and peace talks in a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and promised to withdraw back to the north. Both warring parties are accused of serious human rights violations, and the UN Human Rights Council now wants a to investigate this with an independent commission. „War in Ethiopia: Armed drones could be again a gamechanger“ weiterlesen

„Thin blue line“: German police trainer warns against radicalisation

Police sometimes see themselves as the last „blue line“ against chaos and crime. Various police stations also tweet about this self-image, which is popular among right-wing officers. Websites where police employees  also participate sell patches, mugs and shirts with the problematic symbolism.

Several German police forces published tweets about the so-called „thin blue line“ over Christmas or referred to it in a positive way. The police in Kiel made the start after an action on Christmas Eve. All windows of the middle floor of the three-storey police station near the main railway station were illuminated in dark blue. A photo published on the internet names the night shift as the originator.

The Christmas greeting with the blue line appeared on the private website „Polizist=Mensch“ (translates to „Policeman=Human Being“). After being asked about it on Twitter, the Schleswig-Holstein State Police backed the action. The night shift had wanted to make clear that the police were also available „around the clock for everyone“ during the Christmas holidays. „„Thin blue line“: German police trainer warns against radicalisation“ weiterlesen