“E-smuggling”: Europol steps up efforts against online-assisted migrant crossings

According to the EU police agency, in the past year 17,459 people operated as “human traffickers”. In the majority of cases, refugees and their facilitators communicate using Facebook or Telegram. Seizing of electronic evidence is thus to take on a greater role in investigations.

Last year, the EU police agency Europol received reports of 1,150 social media accounts apparently used by refugees to facilitate their entry into or travel through the European Union. This information is based on figures (PDF) published by the European Migrant Smuggling Center (EMSC) at Europol for 2016. The number of incriminated accounts in 2015 was just 148.

The report does not differentiate between humanitarian assistance for refugees and commercial offers. It is also unclear how many of the accounts were reported to the online providers to be removed. According to Europol, the rate of compliance with requests for deletion among companies was around 90 percent. “E-smuggling”: Europol steps up efforts against online-assisted migrant crossings weiterlesen

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

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

“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 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