Encrypted communication: UK remains member of EU interception group

Despite Brexit, British police can influence surveillance laws in the EU. The country is also represented in European secret service circles.

Notwithstanding its exit from the European Union, the British police will remain a member of a Standing Heads of Lawful Interception Units based at Europol. The UK is represented there by the National Crime Agency. This was confirmed by the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, in her answer to a parlamentary question by the pirate Patrick Breyer. The UK is thus the only third country in the group, which otherwise consists exclusively of EU members and the Schengen states Norway, Switzerland and Iceland.

The working group of the departments on telecommunications surveillance had once been founded as a strategic „5G Expert Group“ on the initiative of the German Federal Criminal Police Office. It was supposed to give the authorities access to the new telephone standard, which was actually tap-proof. After this was successfully pushed through in the European and international standardisation bodies ETSI and 3GPP, the group was given a new name and new tasks in October 2021. It is now to ensure that the needs of law enforcement agencies are taken into account when amending surveillance laws at EU level and in the member states. „Encrypted communication: UK remains member of EU interception group“ weiterlesen

Secret German drone defence

The Federal Police secures all German commercial airports against unwanted approaches by small copters. Mobile installations are followed by a stationary platform

Obstructions caused by small drones at German airports remain at the same level as in previous years. In 2021, 98 incidents were reported to Deutsche Flugsicherung. This is according to the Federal Ministry of the Interior in its answer to a parlamentarian question from the Left Party. In 2018, there were 158 incidents, which is the highest figure recorded to date.

Despite this, the government is making great efforts to defend commercial airports against drones. The public is not supposed to know which mobile systems are installed there. The reason given is that knowledge would allow „opponents“ to draw conclusions about the technical capabilities of the police authorities. „Secret German drone defence“ weiterlesen

German ANOM investigations: The mysterious EU third state

The FBI had a crypto-messenger programmed that was fully intercepted. For legal reasons, the US authority received the intercepted communication via detours. Because of „hearsay court orders“, its use in German criminal proceedings is questionable.

Ever since the encrypted messenger service EncroChat was hacked by authorities from France and the Netherlands in March 2020, investigative proceedings have been piling up at law enforcement agencies across Europe. Millions of chat messages have been transmitted via Europol to the relevant authorities in EU member states for follow-up. Almost every day, therefore, there are new raids, arrests or convictions in Germany as well.

Although the hack was presumably carried out by a French secret service and involved mass surveillance without any reason, the German Federal Supreme Court – unlike some regional courts before it – recently allowed the use of EncroChat data as evidence in Germany in principle. This was because the information had been collected by France, i.e. an EU member state, and passed on within the framework of European mutual legal assistance. The countries participating in this set of rules were to be trusted in principle. „German ANOM investigations: The mysterious EU third state“ weiterlesen

Germany: Mobile phones as a tracking bug

With silent SMS, cell site analysis and IMSI catchers, authorities can pinpoint the location of a mobile device to within a few metres.

Last year, the German Federal Criminal Police sent about 68,000 silent SMS in 33 cases (one of which was a danger aversion case), which is a significant increase compared to preceding years. The Federal Police sent around 48,000 silent text messages in 56 criminal proceedings, which is roughly the average of past years. This is stated in the answer to a parliamentary question by the Left Party in the Bundestag. „Germany: Mobile phones as a tracking bug“ weiterlesen

Screening of travellers: U.S. wants to query fingerprint databases in Europe

To participate in the Visa Waiver Programme, Israel allows U.S. authorities access to its biometric data. The government in Washington wants to make this mandatory for another 40 countries.

The US government has sent a letter to EU member states announcing an Enhanced Border Security Partnership (EBSP). This would regulate access to fingerprint databases by US border authorities. It would be a condition for countries whose nationals can enter the United visa-free.

The German government also received such a notification via the U.S. Embassy in Berlin on 9 February, the Social Democratic Party-led Ministry of the Interior confirmed in its answer to a parliamentary question. „Essentially, among other things, this is probably intended to enable the exchange of biometric data, among other things of travellers,“ the ministry writes somewhat nebulously, adding that further details are currently being clarified. The regulation is to apply from 2027, it says. „Screening of travellers: U.S. wants to query fingerprint databases in Europe“ weiterlesen

Information systems at Europol: Fishing the „data lake“ with a new dragnet

The EU police agency has completely restructured its information systems. German authorities are by far the main users for storage and query. Through a parliamentary question, the successor of Palantir software at Europol is now known.

The European Police Agency in The Hague has various databases, the largest of which is the centralised „Europol Information System“ (EIS). There, police forces of member states put suspects, convicts or „potential“ future criminals when the offences in question fall within Europol’s remit. These include serious or organised crime and terrorism.

For this, personal data, national insurance numbers and telephone numbers, e-mail or IP addresses, evidence can be stored in the EIS, including searchable facial images, non-coding DNA data and fingerprints. The member States retain ownership of the data they transfer, national authorities can determine the purpose for which it is used and set restrictions. „Information systems at Europol: Fishing the „data lake“ with a new dragnet“ weiterlesen

DNA, facial images and fingerprints: German biometric police systems contain 10 million people

Police authorities are increasingly requesting biometric data, more and more often with success. The search is carried out in German and European information systems. However, the results are not always trustworthy.

Since 2008, German police forces have been able to search biometric photographs in the INPOL file at the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA). For this purpose, the authorities use a facial recognition system (GES), which is also made available via the BKA. Currently, about 5.5 million portrait images of 3.6 million persons are stored there for search purposes. This is what the Federal Ministry of the Interior writes in its answer to a parlamentarian question by the Left Party. In addition to the BKA, the Federal Police and the State Criminal Police Offices can also use the GES. In 2021, the authorities made a total of 90,425 queries there, an increase of about 20 per cent compared to 2020. 4,990 persons were identified, compared to 4,403 the year before. „DNA, facial images and fingerprints: German biometric police systems contain 10 million people“ weiterlesen

Referral Unit at Europol: German police had thousands of internet contents removed last year

Currently, hosting providers can decide whether to voluntarily comply with removal requests in the area of „Islamist terrorism“ from Europol. From 7 June, these will become removal orders, which can be sent directly to companies by national authorities via a new platform.

With the Internet Referral Unit (EU IRU), Europol operates since 2015 a platform for tracking postings that police authorities classify as „terrorist“ or „violent extremist“. It is part of Europol’s Counter-Terrorism Centre in The Hague. So far, the reports from the EU IRU are so-called referrals, i.e. requests for deletion, which are passed on to the corresponding hosting providers.

The companies decide for themselves whether to comply with the objectionable content, but in the past it was removed immediately in most cases. In addition to providers such as Google, Meta or Apple, Telegram also cooperates with Europol and has participated in joint „action days“ on the internet since 2019, for example. „Referral Unit at Europol: German police had thousands of internet contents removed last year“ weiterlesen

German activists receive asylum in Venezuela

After Interpol already withdrew an arrest request, two leftists now finally escape persecution by the German justice system

The Venezuelan refugee commission has granted the two German-born Peter Krauth and Thomas Walter a claim for protection from political persecution. They are thus entitled to an unlimited right to stay in Venezuela, reports the solidarity website for the suspects in the so-called K.O.M.I.T.E.E. investigation.

Krauth, Walter and Bernhard Heidbreder, who recently died of a tumour, have been wanted by the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) for membership in a terrorist organisation since 1995. They are alleged to have carried out an arson attack on a Bundeswehr building in Bad Freienwalde in the same year. In 1996, the group had also tried to blow up a deportation prison under construction in Berlin-Grünau. A police patrol was alerted to the fact that the construction site had been cordoned off for this purpose. The perpetrators fled, the building remained unharmed. In a vehicle left at the crime scene, the BKA found evidence that it attributed to the three wanted men. „German activists receive asylum in Venezuela“ weiterlesen

Facial recognition and police records: European biometric systems to be expanded

A new Prüm system will make it possible to query facial images across Europe in the future, and a central biometric EU repository will also be connected to it

For 14 years, the member states of the European Union have been able to query each other’s fingerprints, non-coding DNA data, motor vehicle and owner data. The basis for this is the Prüm Treaty, which was initially signed by seven EU members in the Eifel town in 2005. Three years later, the EU Prüm Decision followed, making the set of rules for improving police data exchange valid throughout the Union. As non-EU states, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and the United Kingdom also participate in the Prüm network.

To mark the tenth anniversary of the Decision in 2018, the Council proposed to extend cooperation to facial images. The Commission recently presented a draft for such a Prüm II. The paper is now being discussed by the member states in the relevant Council working groups, and the position of the interior and justice ministers is to be determined by spring. Afterwards, the Parliament will deal with it. „Facial recognition and police records: European biometric systems to be expanded“ weiterlesen