Facial recognition at German police authorities increased by more than a third

Millions of faces, fingerprints and palm prints are stored in German police databases. Law enforcement agencies are also processing more and more biometric data at the EU level.

The comparison of photographs by German police authorities has again increased sharply in the past year. This is shown by statistics based on information provided by the Federal Ministry of the Interior in a parliamentary interpellation. According to this, a total of 76,535 queries were made in the facial recognition system of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) in 2020. The year before, there were still around 54,000 queries, so the increase is more than a third (2018: 41,000, 2017: 27,000). According to the statistics, most of the searches come from the criminal investigation offices, which is also where the greatest increase was recorded.

Since 2009, the BKA has made it possible for the state criminal investigation offices and the Federal Police to identify unknown persons with the help of the central police information system (INPOL-Z). In the database, the BKA stores photographs mainly from the identification service. The „Z“ stands for „central file“, which is kept by the BKA but filled by all police authorities. „Facial recognition at German police authorities increased by more than a third“ weiterlesen

European police networking in the twilight

The Police Working Group on Terrorism (PWGT) consists of the political departments of police authorities in all Schengen states. The informal group was established in 1979 as a response to left-wing armed movements. After their disappearance, the purpose of the PWGT was expanded to include „political violent activities“.

Together with police authorities from Belgium and Great Britain, the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) started the European „Informal Terrorism Working Group“ in 1979. The founding date was 25 and 26 April, prompted by attacks by armed left-wing groups in various European countries. One month earlier, the British ambassador Richard Sykes was killed in The Hague. The Irish IRA claimed responsibility, initially, however, the police also considered the involvement of Palestinian groups or the German RAF possible.

Before Margaret Thatcher was elected British Prime Minister in May 1979, the Irish National Liberation Army killed her future Northern Ireland Minister with a car bomb. In Germany at that time, IRA commandos carried out attacks on British soldiers, in Belgium the RAF tried to blow up the NATO supreme commander in Europe. This was reason enough for the BKA’s „Terrorism“ department, like the left-wing movements, to do better in international networking. „European police networking in the twilight“ weiterlesen

Query on Suspicion: German EU Council Presidency wants Criminal Records Index

For the second time, the German Federal Criminal Police Office is leading an EU pilot project that aims to enable cross-border queries of police files. This could affect not only police suspects but also their associates or victims. The Federal Ministry of the Interior has been pursuing the project since the German EU Presidency in 2007.

With the German EU Presidency soon to end, the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) is one step closer to its goal of networking police forces in EU member states in a new information system. Within the framework of a „European Police Record Index System“ (EPRIS), the police in all participating states are to be able to query registers on persons against whom criminal investigations are on file. With such a system, it could be determined whether data exists in the police databases of another state.

Since February, the BKA has been leading an EU project that is testing the use of this EPRIS for the second time within a year. The police from France, Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain and Hungary as well as Europol are involved. Partners from the private sector are the German consulting company PD and the Berlin Fraunhofer Institute FOKUS. „Query on Suspicion: German EU Council Presidency wants Criminal Records Index“ weiterlesen

How it all began: Five years of fight against end-to-end encryption

The German EU Presidency wants to enable police forces and secret services to circumvent end-to-end encrypted communication or to use technical tools to defeat it.

A look at the activities carried out over the past five years allows some conclusions about who is particularly committed to the new crypto war. In its wake, Europol is also developing new capabilities for using Trojans and cracking encrypted storage media. „How it all began: Five years of fight against end-to-end encryption“ weiterlesen

Advertising for police databases: Germany wants „European Data Quality Day“

Alerts in the Schengen Information System are increasing significantly every year, entries in Europol databases are also continuing to grow. The German government now wants to use video messages and giveaways to promote the acceptance of the largest European police database.

The German EU Council Presidency wants to introduce a „European Data Quality Day“ (EDQD) in the EU Member States to improve the quality of police data bases. The Federal Ministry of the Interior already sent out a questionnaire on this subject in September, now a proposal is to be discussed at the EU Council of Interior and Justice Ministers. The action day is to be repeated annually and is part of the „European Police Partnership“ (EuPP), which the Federal Government announced on the occasion of its Presidency.

The initiative is mainly aimed at the use of the Schengen Information System (SIS II). Thus, the Member States are to enter more arrest warrants in the database. Improvements are also to be made with regard to incorrect spelling of first names and surnames or changes of name. In some Member States, the SIS II will no longer show previous entries of the person after a marriage. „Advertising for police databases: Germany wants „European Data Quality Day““ weiterlesen

Encryption and drones: German BKA wants more special technology for EU police

While end-to-end encryption should be generally weakened, Europol is developing new secure communication applications for the police. Some of the measures are part of the „European Police Partnership“ proclaimed by the German EU Presidency. This includes the project „WhatsApp for law enforcement officers“.

The German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) is leading a new Europol project on encrypted exchange between European police authorities, a EU document published by Statewatch says. Among other things, the initiative deals with lessons learned from the COVID 19 pandemic, which in many cases also means a switch from face-to-face meetings to video telephony for cross-border police cooperation. Europol has therefore set up a „Core Group for Secure Communications“, which is led by the BKA. It should examine existing methods for their effectiveness, identify possible gaps and make proposals to bridge them.

With its „Virtual Command Post“ application, Europol already provides a secure channel for immediate joint operations, through which personal data is also communicated. For emergency communication in the event of terrorist attacks or major police operations, Europol has recently launched the „Quick Response for Operational Centres“ (QROC) project. For questions related to COVID-19, Europol will initially set up an Internet forum called „Virtual Requests out of Mandate“ (vRoom), which is not intended for the exchange of operational information. „Encryption and drones: German BKA wants more special technology for EU police“ weiterlesen

Germany wants EU concept for „persons considered a potential terrorist or violent extremist threat“

In Germany there is no legal definition of „Gefährder“. They are persecuted for acts they have not yet committed. The Federal Government now wants to exchange more data on this group of people throughout the EU.

Actually, the police should prosecute suspects or defendants of a crime. Its tasks also include the prevention of a „concrete danger“, such as that emanating from persons called „troublemakers“ in police jargon. With the „Gefährder“ a third police target group has been sneaking into German law for two decades, as Heiner Busch expressed it in the magazine CILIP. This marked the beginning of a new stage in the shifting of criminal prosecution to the preliminary stage: threats are being prosecuted that have not yet even occurred.

Before the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, football fans or political activists were referred to as „Gefährder“, but now the category is mostly used in connection with terrorism. There is no legal term for it, instead it is a working definition, which the heads of the state criminal investigation offices and the Federal Criminal Police Office vaguely outlined for the first time in 2004. According to this concept, a „Gefährder“ is a person in respect of whom „certain facts justify the assumption that they will commit politically motivated crimes of considerable importance“. „Germany wants EU concept for „persons considered a potential terrorist or violent extremist threat““ weiterlesen

German proposal: EU to take over working group on covert observation and surveillance

European police forces are organised in three informal networks for the exchange of information on techniques and methods of clandestine surveillance. The German Presidency wants to merge the structures and establish them with the EU. Europol could be responsible for coordination.

Police tasks include clandestine surveillance, for example to convict suspects of a crime or to prevent the commission of further offences. To this end, the authorities use technical means to listen to the spoken word, to observe with miniaturised cameras or to trace with tracking devices.

To improve covert observation and surveillance, European authorities are joining forces in three networks. Police authorities from Eastern Europe, Finland and Malta are members of the „Surveillance Cooperation Group“ (SCG) founded in Prague in 2017. The countries of the Western Balkans as well as Austria join forces in the „Surveillance Expert Network for Southeast Europe“ (SENSEE). All other EU Member States, the associated Schengen members Norway and Switzerland as well as Europol are organised in the „European Surveillance Group“ (ESG). Great Britain is also still participating in this group. „German proposal: EU to take over working group on covert observation and surveillance“ weiterlesen

Lawful interception: German government sets up new surveillance unit at Europol

Germany uses its EU Presidency to reorganise digital surveillance in Europe. A 5G working group temporarily set up by the BKA is now being consolidated at Europol. It is to coordinate the „operational capabilities“ in the Member States and facilitate interception through new legislative proposals.

The German Presidency of the EU Council wants to set up a Europe-wide working group on the interception of telecommunications by police forces and secret services. This emerges from a document put online by the British civil rights organisation Statewatch. The „Permanent Group of the Heads of Interception Units“ is to consist of the departments responsible in several Member States.

With this initiative, the German Government wants to improve the „operational capabilities“ in the Member States. However, a central office for interception of telecommunications located at the European Union is probably not adressed, as this would be contrary to the EU treaties. Europol could, however, take on an intermediary role, as it does in the cross-border tracking of GPS transmitters, and ensure that in cross-border investigations different authorities do not monitor the same telephone lines. „Lawful interception: German government sets up new surveillance unit at Europol“ weiterlesen