First child pornography, now extremism: Internet providers and police investigation authorities to use Microsoft upload filters

Material uploaded onto the Web could soon be scanned for extremist or radicalising content with an upload filter produced by Microsoft. The filter would be installed in the systems of Internet service providers (ISPs), but the necessary databases could be held by the police authorities.

Two weeks ago in Washington, the international Counter Extremism Project presented a software solution with which extremist content is said to be detectable on upload. The process is based on PhotoDNA, an application originally developed by Microsoft to combat child pornography. It is able to detect video and audio content. The recognition rate is reportedly in the region of 98%.

PhotoDNA operates on the principle known as ‘robust hashing’ and extracts a distinct digital signature from the file. With the checksum, the software is then able to recognise images even if they have been distorted or post-edited. The comparison is made with a hash database, which is administered either by ISPs or by both ISPs and public authorities. In the United States, for example, PhotoDNA makes use of the database of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Interpol, the International Criminal Police Organization, also maintains a Child Sexual Exploitation Image Database. „First child pornography, now extremism: Internet providers and police investigation authorities to use Microsoft upload filters“ weiterlesen

International investigative bureau in Vienna to combat “migrant smuggling”

On 4 May 2016, the Austrian Minister of the Interior Wolfgang Sobotka opened the “Joint Operational Office against Human Smuggling Networks” (JOO) in Vienna. In a statement, the Austrian Federal Ministry of the Interior stated that the institution was an “international investigative bureau against human smuggling”. The centre has an initial complement of 38 staff members, Europol intends to second additional personnel. It is intended to be a point of contact for investigations of authorities also from the migrants’ countries of origin.

According to the German Ministry of Interior, the JOO is formed within the Sub-Department “Trafficking in Human Beings and Human Smuggling” at the Federal Criminal Police Office in Vienna. Authorities from Germany, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, the UK, Hungary, Croatia, Romania, Sweden, Slovenia and Slovakia, as well as Europol and Frontex, support the JOO as “members”. Legal basis of the JOO is the Police Cooperation Convention for South East Europe (PCC-SEE) with police personnel from the Balkan region and EU countries. „International investigative bureau in Vienna to combat “migrant smuggling”“ weiterlesen

New Europol regulation due to enter into force from May 2017 – oversight is likely to remain superficial

On 1 May 2017, the new regulation on Europol will enter into force. The compromise agreed on in the framework of the trilogue procedure lays down new more detailed provisions on oversight of the activities of Europol by the European Parliament.

Article 88 (2), sentence 3 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union provides for the national Parliaments to be more closely involved with this scrutiny. Article 51 of the regulation mentions the establishment of a Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny Group (JPSG). The European Parliament had lobbied hard during the trilogue procedure to achieve this. The Group is to consist of Members of the European Parliament and the national Parliaments. Yet it is unclear how this will work in practice. „New Europol regulation due to enter into force from May 2017 – oversight is likely to remain superficial“ weiterlesen

New FRONTEX agency: satellite reconnaissance and drones over the Mediterranean

The EU is taking its maritime surveillance to a new level. The three agencies responsible for coastal and maritime surveillance are to be merged. 81 million euros has been earmarked for unmanned aerial vehicles alone, with hundreds of millions also being spent on the necessary satellite capabilities. The money is flowing into the coffers of arms companies.

The FRONTEX border agency, the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) have signed a new cooperation agreement. Its aims include improving border surveillance, intercepting vessels suspected of “engaging in criminal activities” and combating illegal fishing. The agreement was signed on the margins of a conference at which the agencies discussed new forms of maritime surveillance, information sharing and capacity building. „New FRONTEX agency: satellite reconnaissance and drones over the Mediterranean“ weiterlesen

Europol to cooperate with new European intelligence service center

European intelligence services are establishing a „Counter Terrorism Centre“ in the Dutch city The Hague. The centre belongs to the „Counter Terrorism Group“ (CTG) that was founded by the so called Club of Berne in 2001.

It consists of domestic intelligence services from all European member states plus Norway and Switzerland. France and Italy are participating with two different authorities. The CTG members are now invoked to send liason officers towards the Dutch centre. Which security services will participate in the „Counter Terrorism Centre“ is yet unclear. Reportedly to German media „not even half of the countries want to join“. „Europol to cooperate with new European intelligence service center“ weiterlesen

“Terrorist material” online: further successful removal requests by Europol

Europol’s Internet Referral Unit is more active than had previously been known. The partnership with the internet industry is now to be expanded further, with the aim of establishing a Joint Referral Platform for the police and private companies and developing “counter-narratives”.

A document posted online by the British civil-rights organisation Statewatch provides new information about the Internet Referral Unit set up at Europol in The Hague. It states that the unit has already found, analysed and assessed 7364 pieces of suspected terrorist and extremist material online. In 6399 cases, Europol asked internet companies to remove the content, and was successful in 95% of cases. Much lower figures had been given by the European Commission in a communication five weeks ago. The content was found across at least 45 different platforms, according to the communication. „“Terrorist material” online: further successful removal requests by Europol“ weiterlesen

EU adds facial recognition capabilities to police databases

Last week, the European Commission published its proposal to recast the EURODAC Regulation, which includes plans for longer storage periods, an expansion of data categories and comparison capabilities, and mandatory fingerprinting and photographing. To date, EURODAC has been used for comparison of fingerprints.

Now the system is also to store facial images and facial recognition capabilities are to be added. There are two different search options. When checks are taking place, people’s images can be compared with available personal data to verify their identity (known as 1:1 matching). However, it is also possible to search for a face in the entire database (1:n). „EU adds facial recognition capabilities to police databases“ weiterlesen

German Bundeswehr to gain combat drones

For the interim period, an Israeli model is to be leased; over the next ten years, European arms companies are to develop a competitive “Euro-drone”

The German Bundeswehr has now selected a model of combat drone for future use. It plans to lease “three to five” of the latest “TP” version (Block 2) of the Heron family of drones, developed by Israel Aerospace Industries. The prime contractor for the leasing arrangement is the Airbus Group, which entered into a teaming agreement with the Israeli manufacturer on marketing in Europe.

The selection decision is initially a “bridging solution” for a ten-year period. The Federal Government is planning the development by 2025 of a “European solution” for drones which can be armed. After several attempts, the governments of Germany, France and Italy have agreed on a preliminary study for a long-range drone of this kind. The arms companies Airbus, Dassault Aviation and Alenia Aermacchi have been tasked with carrying out this “multilateral drone project”. Spain has since also joined the project. „German Bundeswehr to gain combat drones“ weiterlesen

EU puts circumvention of encryption back on the agenda

The European Union is discussing access by law enforcement authorities to encrypted communications in a number of papers, working groups and new cooperation forums. The “crypto debate” begun around a year ago on ways to circumvent encryption or access protected communication has gained new momentum.

Most recently, the Luxembourg Council Presidency sent out a paper setting out the challenges posed by “Internet communication channels and multiple social media” to the Member States. The paper expresses the view that new “encryption based technologies” are increasingly hampering or rendering impossible effective investigations. According to this paper, these technologies are of particular significance not only in the area of “counter-terrorism policies”, but also of “anti-radicalisation measures”. „EU puts circumvention of encryption back on the agenda“ weiterlesen

Campaign Intelexit: „Exit path back to democracy“ for members of the intelligence community in moral conflicts

As „the world’s first exit program for the intelligence community“ the campaign Intelexit started last month. Employees from the secret services like the National Security Agency (NSA), the UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and the German Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) are to be supported to leave the institutions. A video with Bruce Schneier and Thomas Drake, the Vienna-based therapist Angelika Schneider and the former Stasi officer Walter Eichner explains the backgrounds, a flyer gives more details.

Intelexit is directed to all employees, not only those who work on surveillance programs or take part in drone wars. Concerned people, who see themselves in moral conflicts, should be helped to receive counselling, therapy and legal support. Those who have hesitations, can try a selftest on the campaigns website.

This interview was conducted with some of the organisers briefly before the start of the campaign. „Campaign Intelexit: „Exit path back to democracy“ for members of the intelligence community in moral conflicts“ weiterlesen