New regulation: Europol becomes quasi-secret service

The EU police agency processes billions of personalised „big data“, much of it from governmental hacks or intelligence sources. The new Europol vice-director, who was trained in the French military, plays a special role. Now it’s up to the EU Parliament to decide.

The day before yesterday, the EU interior ministers agreed on a mandate for negotiations on the amendment of the Europol Regulation. The final draft has already been published by the British civil rights organisation Statewatch. This means that negotiations on the planned law with the EU Parliament can begin. The proposal is controversial, as Europol would be allowed to process data from private entities on a large scale, even if they include innocent people or contact persons of suspects.

Six months ago, the Commission had presented the draft for the new Europol Regulation. According to the proposal, Europol should have an additional 178 million euros and 160 new posts by 2027. Because the police agency would then also be allowed to use the Schengen Information System (SIS II), a proposed amendment of the SIS Regulation is also being discussed. With the new legal and financial powers, Europol would be on its way to becoming a „European FBI“, as some German interior politicians have demanded in recent months. „New regulation: Europol becomes quasi-secret service“ weiterlesen

„Battlefield information“: EU police to cooperate more closely with secret services and military

Authorities in the European Union use biometric data and crime scene evidence from Iraq and Syria to process war crimes, secretly track suspects and control migration. Now the procedure is to be extended to African countries.

After a meeting of EU interior and defence ministers in 2017, authorities in member states have been using so-called „battlefield information“ to fight terrorism. In this way, the authorities want to identify and detect „foreign fighters“ when they cross an external EU border. The procedure is to be expanded, the EU anti-terrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove is therefore calling on governments to engage in a „regular dialogue with their military forces and relevant intelligence and security services“. This is according to two documents posted online by the British civil liberties organisation Statewatch.

„Battlefield information“ comes from countries such as Syria or Iraq, where the „Global Coalition against Daesh“ has been operating militarily since 2014. The intelligence is usually collected there by military secret services. Their dissemination and use goes back to „Operation Gallant Phoenix“, an initiative of the US government. It has a secretariat in Jordan and involves military and intelligence services from 27 Western and Arab states as well as their police authorities. „„Battlefield information“: EU police to cooperate more closely with secret services and military“ weiterlesen

Artificial Intelligence: EU Presidency against blanket ban on real-time facial recognition

While the EU Commission wants to regulate AI applications for police and justice, the current Council Presidency is in favour of as few restrictions as possible. The processing of facial images from public spaces is becoming a bone of contention.

The Portuguese EU Presidency is questioning a blanket ban on artificial intelligence (AI) for facial recognition in public spaces. The Commission had presented such a proposal on 21 April, but also named a number of exceptions and associated obligations.

In a discussion paper distributed to the member states, this approach is now criticised by the Council. Instead, it is according to the Presidency „essential to ensure that we are not not unnecessarily limiting the development and use of technological development“. The police and judicial use of AI must be „be practical, useful and improve the efficiency with which law enforcement authorities work“. „Artificial Intelligence: EU Presidency against blanket ban on real-time facial recognition“ weiterlesen

Greece: EU Commission upgrades border surveillance – and criticises it at the same time

The Greek border police are using a sound cannon and drones on a new border fence, and the EU Commission expresses its „concern“ about this. However, it is itself funding several similar research projects, including a semi-autonomous drone with stealth features for „effective surveillance of borders and migration flows“

On Monday, the Associated Press (AP) news agency had reported that police in Greece plan to deploy a long-range sound cannon at the external border with Turkey in the future. The device, mounted on a police tank, makes a deafening noise with the volume of a jet engine. It is part of a system of steel walls that is being installed and tested along with drones on the 200-kilometre border with Turkey for migration defence. The vehicle, made by the Canadian manufacturer Streit, comes from a series of seized „Typhoons“ that were to be illegally exported to Libya via Dubai.

After the AP report about the sound cannons went viral, Commission spokesman Adalbert Jahnz had clarified that it was not an EU project. „Greece: EU Commission upgrades border surveillance – and criticises it at the same time“ weiterlesen

Council and Commission: EU seeks two high-level security coordinators

After 14 years, the Council wants to recruit a new Counter-Terrorism Coordinator. Her remit will be expanded to include hybrid threats and cybersecurity. The Commission is also creating such a post.

The member states united in the European Council want to fill the position of the Counter-Terrorism Coordinator (CTC). The Council Secretariat has sent out an internal call for applications, the deadline is 15 June. The appointment will be made by the EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy after consensus in the Council. The post is limited to five years, but a single reappointment is possible.

The creation of a CTC was decided by the then EU member states after the terrorist attacks of 11 March 2004 in Madrid as part of a declaration on the fight against terrorism. It is at the highest political level of the European Union. The post was first held by the Dutchman Gijs de Vries, and in 2007 the Belgian Gilles de Kerchove was appointed. „Council and Commission: EU seeks two high-level security coordinators“ weiterlesen

EU Council and Commission: New roadmap for access to encryption

The Portuguese Presidency is calling for an EU-wide regulation on access to encrypted content by police and judiciary. This should also affect device manufacturers. Failure to comply could result in companies being banned from doing business in the EU.

The European Union is to adopt a legal framework on decryption in the near future so that authorities can access „lawfully relevant data“. This was written by the Portuguese EU Council Presidency in a Communication which also presents a roadmap for this purpose. An important milestone is a proposal for „way forward“, which the EU Commission will prepare by 2022.

The paper from Portugal has been coordinated with the previous German and the upcoming Slovenian EU Presidencies. The German Ministry of the Interior had taken a new initiative against end-to-end encryption at the start of this so-called trio presidency and adopted a Resolution and Conclusions on the implementation of decryption capabilities. It states that the member states themselves should decide on the methods they use. „EU Council and Commission: New roadmap for access to encryption“ weiterlesen

Strategic Compass: Secret services help determine EU’s military course

Member states‘ foreign and defence ministries are today discussing future European Union military capabilities, including how to respond to „cyber threats“. The fodder for this „Strategic Dialogue“ comes from the domestic and foreign intelligence services. MEPs are not allowed to see any of the top-secret documents.

The EU member states are working on new guidelines for the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). These are to be summarised in a „Strategic Compass“, on the basis of which concrete measures and operations will then be decided. In this way, the governments are further expanding the initially rather defensive „EU Global Strategy“.

The Global Strategy adopted in 2016 envisages that the European Union will increase its arms expenditure and the number of its military missions. With the legally controversial Defence Fund and the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), the proposals were implemented in a relatively short time. PESCO defines concrete measures for research and development of military systems, including „cyber defence and response“, „reconnaissance and space“ and drones at sea, on land and in the air. „Strategic Compass: Secret services help determine EU’s military course“ weiterlesen

Unmanned surveillance for Fortress Europe

The agencies EMSA and Frontex have spent more than €300 million on drone services since 2016. The Mediterranean in particular is becoming a testing track for further projects.

According to the study „Eurodrones Inc.“ presented by Ben Hayes, Chris Jones and Eric Töpfer for Statewatch seven years ago, the European Commission had already spent over €315 million at that time to investigate the use of drones for border surveillance. These efforts focused on capabilities of member states and their national contact centres for EUROSUR. The border surveillance system, managed by Frontex in Warsaw, became operational in 2014 – initially only in some EU Member States.

The Statewatch study also documented in detail the investments made by the Defence Agency (EDA) in European drone research up to 2014. More than €190 million in funding for drones on land, at sea and in the air has flowed since the EU military agency was founded. 39 projects researched technologies or standards to make the unmanned systems usable for civilian and military purposes. „Unmanned surveillance for Fortress Europe“ weiterlesen

EU project iBorderCtrl: Is the lie detector coming or not?

A document made legible again reveals how the beneficiaries of EU security research have been pushing for legislative changes for the introduction of prohibited technologies. The EU Commission is now funding a follow-up project with 8 million euros.

For three years, a consortium of European companies, institutes, universities and police forces had been working in an EU project on technologies to make the work of border and customs authorities easier. Several applications were combined in a „Intelligent Portable Border Control System“ (iBorderCtrl), which officers can access via a mobile device. The principle is that travellers feed as much personal data as possible into the system themselves before entering the country.

The platform then carries out a risk assessment and includes other data sources. An algorithm decides whether the person is classified as harmless. Then the border crossing at automatic control gates can take place quickly and smoothly. Those who are classified as risky by iBorderCtrl have to go through a „manual“ border control. „EU project iBorderCtrl: Is the lie detector coming or not?“ weiterlesen

German Social Democratic Party approves EU war drone

From 2030, European air forces want to have a drone for surveillance, interception or attack. The weapon system could be exported worldwide.

The German Bundestag has just given the go-ahead for the development and procurement of the Eurodrone. A so-called 25 million bill of the governing coalition of Christian and Social Democrats was voted on in the budget committee, the Defence Committee also gave its approval this morning. Their decision clears the way for the series production of a new unmanned system, which is to be delivered to the currently participating countries Germany, France, Italy and Spain from 2029.

The bill now passed for „industrial support for initial flight operations“ allows the Ministry of Defence to sign a contract with the German defence division of Airbus. The European company will be the prime contractor for the final assembly, working with Dassault Aviation (France) and Leonardo (Italy). The total project will cost at least 7.6 billion euros, of which Germany will account for exactly half. „German Social Democratic Party approves EU war drone“ weiterlesen