Prüm Decision: European criminal police offices agree on face recognition system

The European Union is extending the cross-border query of biometric data to faces. Searches should also be possible with still images from surveillance cameras. Up to now, only individuals may be processed in the Prüm framework, but soon bulk searches could be permitted.

In 2008, the Member States of the European Union signed the EU Prüm Decision. The treaty allows law enforcement authorities to conduct cross-border searches of DNA, fingerprints and data containing vehicles and their owners. On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Prüm Decision, the Council had proposed Conclusions to extend this cooperation to facial images.

For the envisaged „Next generation Prüm“ (Prüm.ng), the Commission first ordered a feasibility study from the consulting firm Deloitte. It was submitted last autumn and is being discussed in the relevant Council working groups, but remains secret. The British civil rights organisation Statewatch has published a report by a „focus group on face recognition“ in which ten criminal police offices define, on the basis of the Deloitte study, a technical framework for the comparison of faces. „Prüm Decision: European criminal police offices agree on face recognition system“ weiterlesen

Western Balkans: Clandestine connection to EU databases

Even without imminent EU accession, all third countries in South-East Europe will gradually be connected to European information systems. They will set up a fingerprint database along the lines of the EU model and, as in the Prüm Treaty, will make it possible to query biometric data. Secret services in the Western Balkans also use the Schengen Information System through a back door.

Albania, Northern Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro are EU accession candidates, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are considered potential candidate countries. All governments therefore receive so-called Pre-accession Assistance for the development of police and border police capabilities. They are based on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement that the countries have concluded with the EU.

The European Union now wants to significantly expand security cooperation with all the countries of the Western Balkans. One focus is on irregular migration. The governments in South-East Europe have already received 216 million Euros for their control since 2007, and funds of a similar amount have flowed into the construction and operation of camps for refugees. According to a proposal by the Croatian Council Presidency, the Western Balkan governments should now set up a biometric database for refugees. It will be based on the Eurodac database, in which EU member states process the fingerprints of asylum seekers. The two fingerprint systems could then be merged after possible EU accession. In addition to fingerprints, Eurodac also stores facial images, but they are not yet searchable. „Western Balkans: Clandestine connection to EU databases“ weiterlesen

Drones for Frontex: Unmanned migration control at Europe’s borders

Instead of providing sea rescue capabilities in the Mediterranean, the EU is expanding air surveillance. Refugees are observed with drones developed for the military. In addition to numerous EU states, countries such as Libya could also use the information obtained.

It is not easy to obtain majorities for legislation in the European Union in the area of migration – unless it is a matter of upgrading the EU’s external borders. While the reform of a common EU asylum system has been on hold for years, the European Commission, Parliament and Council agreed to reshape the border agency Frontex with unusual haste shortly before last year’s parliamentary elections. A new Regulation has been in force since December 2019, under which Frontex intends to build up a „standing corps“ of 10,000 uniformed officials by 2027. They can be deployed not just at the EU’s external borders, but in ‘third countries’ as well.

In this way, Frontex will become a „European border police force“ with powers that were previously reserved for the member states alone. The core of the new Regulation includes the procurement of the agency’s own equipment. The Multiannual Financial Framework, in which the EU determines the distribution of its financial resources from 2021 until 2027, has not yet been decided. According to current plans, however, at least €6 billion are reserved for Frontex in the seven-year budget. The intention is for Frontex to spend a large part of the money, over €2 billion, on aircraft, ships and vehicles. Continue at Statewatch (PDF)

Backdoors vs. Trojans: Europol is examining „solutions“ against end-to-end encryption

The German police also uses a „decryption platform“ at Europol. The system belongs to an „innovation laboratory“ and is currently being equipped with new technology. The EU Commission will soon decide whether Europol should also handle the decryption of secure connections.

Since 2014, Europol has been offering Member States support in decrypting data carriers or mobile phones. The unit is based at the „Centre for Combating Cybercrime“ (EC3), which was set up a year earlier at the headquarters of the EU Police Agency in The Hague. What forensic tools Europol uses for this purpose is not answered by the European Commission, which is responsible for the functioning of the EU agencies.

According to Europol’s annual report for 2018, the „decryption platform“ has been requested 32 times since its creation, in 12 cases successfully. Operations are carried out in various fields, including cybercrime, drug trafficking and migrant smuggling. According to the German government, the services are also available to third states. „Backdoors vs. Trojans: Europol is examining „solutions“ against end-to-end encryption“ weiterlesen

France and Germany launch new joint police force

Together with the Gendarmerie Nationale, the German Federal Police will be sent to former French colonies. The joint unit is already deployed during summit protest, football matches and in „border areas“

At present, the German Federal Police sends around 200 officers on missions outside the European Union. In „Police Reconstruction Aid“, they are working as „trainers, mentors and observers“. The Federal Police also regularly train police forces in third countries, mostly in the field of air and border security and the recognition of false identity documents. In Africa, the Federal Police is particularly active in Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco. In the summer, German officers travelled to Niger for an „exchange of experience“.

Now the German government want to extend its police engagement in Africa to former French colonies. The operations will be carried out within the framework of the new „Franco-German Task Force“ („Deutsch-Französische Einsatzeinheit“, DFEE) with the French National Gendarmerie. The two governments had agreed the set up as a „joint unit for stabilisation operations in third countries“ in the Treaty of Aachen. On the German side, the DFEE is stationed at the Federal Police in Bad Bergzabern in Rhineland-Palatinate, in France at the Prefecture of Grand Est in Metz. „France and Germany launch new joint police force“ weiterlesen

New investigative tools: German police receives 78 million euros for Schengen Information System

Three new EU regulations significantly expand the possibilities of the largest European police database. Four different biometric data can now be entered in SIS II. The number of storages and searches is once again increasing significantly. German authorities are among the power users.

The storage of data in the Schengen Information System (SIS II) continues to increase. This was written by Hans-Georg Engelke, State Secretary in the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, in response to a parliamentary question. According to the report almost 90 million people and objects were listed in Europe’s largest police database as of 1st January. In 2018 there were 82 million, in 2017 about 76 million. The current number of wanted persons, at around 983,000, is the smaller part of all alerts. One tenth of these entries come from Germany, and this number has also risen significantly. „New investigative tools: German police receives 78 million euros for Schengen Information System“ weiterlesen

Upgrade for the Schengen Information System

The European Union is restructuring its police database landscape. Existing systems are being merged and supplemented by new ones. The number of authorised users is also increasing. Following technical changes, the relevant Council working groups are now being reorganised.

The European Agency for the operational management of large-scale IT systems (eu-LISA) has carried out an upgrade for the Schengen Information System (SIS II). With version 9.3.0, the database managed by the Agency based in Tallinn, technically implements its three new regulations. In future, Europol, Eurojust and Frontex will also be able to query all types of alerts in the system, including „discreet searches“.

A total of 26 EU Member States participate in SIS II, plus Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. Last year, the database contained 81 million objects and around 900 thousand persons. In 2017, most entries (20 million) came from Italy, followed by France (11 million) and Germany (over 10 million). In 2017, the system was queried five billion times, mostly by border, police and immigration authorities. In 2018, the number of hits rose to six billion, according to eu-LISA. „Upgrade for the Schengen Information System“ weiterlesen

Laws against morphing

The European Union wants to prevent the forgery of passport photos. Particularly parents pay for this.

The German government has announced a new law for passports and identity cards. Photographs for their application shall only be taken under the supervision of employees of the responsible authority. The coalition of Social Democrats and Conservatives wants to prevent so-called morphing in this way. The method means the computer-generated merging of two or more facial images into a single overall image. The facial features are partially retained, but they blend with the contours of other people. This makes it difficult or impossible to use the photos for automated face recognition.

At the offices, the applicants themselves should be responsible for taking the photographs. The approximately 5,500 passport and identity card authorities in Germany are to be equipped with 11,000 self-service kiosks for this purpose. According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the terminals, which are manufactured by companies such as Bundesdruckerei, among others, will cost 177 million euros. „Laws against morphing“ weiterlesen

Maritime Walls

How armaments companies benefit from Fortress Europe

Several agencies in the European Union are responsible for the maritime regions of the Member States. The tasks of the Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) include the control of shipping, while Frontex coordinates the surveillance of maritime borders. Both use modern technologies, and the agencies have now pooled their capabilities. The EU Fisheries Control Agency is another partner to benefit from this tripartite working agreement.

Frontex specialises in satellite reconnaissance using the EUROSUR border surveillance system. With this platform, the agency wants to detect irregular refugee camps in Morocco or suspicious ship movements in the Mediterranean. The images come from an EU satellite programme for monitoring environmental and security matters. „Maritime Walls“ weiterlesen

Civil and military research: New EU Centre for Cyber Security remains controversial

The European Union wants to increase its „resilience, deterrence and defence“ in the area of cyber security. A new centre will coordinate research and training activities. However, the proposed regulation is not compatible with existing institutions and funding programmes.

The establishment of a European Competence Centre for Cyber Security (ECCC) continues to stagnate. MEPs and Member State governments had defined their positions in March and started negotiations on a regulation. However, an agreement was not reached as planned in the previous legislative period and is not foreseeable with the new EU Parliament.

More than a year ago, the EU Commission presented a regulation establishing an ECCC. It was based on conclusions, in which the Council two years ago called for more „resilience, deterrence and defence“ for cyber security. The ECCC, mentioned there for the first time, is intended to reduce the European Union’s dependence on “ depends on non-European cybersecurity providers“ and bundle efforts in the areas of industry, technology and research. This is intended to ensure the „smooth functioning of the internal market“. „Civil and military research: New EU Centre for Cyber Security remains controversial“ weiterlesen