EU tests crossborder querying of police files

The introduction of a European Police Records Information System has been under discussion for years. Authorities could use it to query police files in other countries. Through the back door, a EU-wide „troublemaker database“ could become reality.

The European Union is continuing to examine the crossborder networking of police files in the Member States. This was written by the German Ministry of the Interior in response to a parlamentarian inquiry. It would allow investigating authorities to query whether information about suspects or defendants is available at a foreign police station. Such a system exists so far only for convictions and has recently been extended.

Some governments have been calling for the introduction of a European Police Records Information System (EPRIS) for many years. The investigators would proceed according to the „hit/no hit procedure“: Quering authorities cannot directly access data in another country, but can inquire whether there is any knowledge about the persons. In this case, a more detailed request must be submitted, stating the reasons for the release of the information.

„Police need“

A feasibility study commissioned by the Commission and carried out by Belgian authorities has already identified the „fundamental police need“ for such a network. According to the German Ministry of the Interior, however, the evaluation of the results of the study, which was completed in 2015, is continuing.

The EPRIS is part of the „Information Management Strategy“ and is intended to promote a targeted exchange of information. In the end, numerous police and immigration databases are to merge under the keyword „interoperability“.

In April 2018, the European Commission launched the „Automation of Data Exchange Processes“ (ADEP) project to facilitate the possible implementation of EPRIS. ADEP is led by France, with authorities from Finland, Ireland and Spain as well as the German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) and Europol participating.

Tests with Fraunhofer software

In a pilot project that has now been extended indeterminately, the BKA is testing „the networking of decentralised databases“ as part of ADEP. The query is carried out with software which is referred to as „German Universal Software“ (GUS) in the responsible Council working group DAPIX. It was developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems (Fraunhofer FOKUS). According to the ministry, no decision has yet been made on the data fields used.

For the exchange, the BKA uses the file format UMF3+ and the so-called Ma3tch technology, the improvement of which is being promoted by the Wiesbaden authority in other EU projects. Queries and answers are transmitted in encrypted form. The participants use Europol’s encrypted SIENA system.

Europe-wide „troublemaker database“?

Tests between at least three Member States and Europol should have begun in the past year. The Europol Information System (EIS) will also be consulted. The pilot project will not exchange real police files but pseudonymised test data. Towards the end of the pilot phase, however, tests are to be carried out „which as far as possible correspond to the conditions of a possible real operation“.

EPRIS could also introduce the long-standing controversial exchange of data on „travelling violent offenders“. The responsible interior ministries regularly call for major summit protests for such a Europe-wide „troublemaker database“. Most recently, German politicians brought into play a European database on „brutal riot tourists“ after the G20 summit in Hamburg. Earlier attempts, however, failed because there is no common European definition of „troublemakers“.

Image: G20 Summit in Hamburg (CC-BY 2.0, Thorsten Schröder).

Autor: Matthias Monroy

Knowledge worker, activist, editor of the German civil rights journal Bürgerrechte & Polizei/CILIP.