China: Algorithm law for „positive energy“

The government in Beijing has passed a globally unique regulation for consumer protection on the internet

China installed a new law on Tuesday to rein in algorithms on the internet. The hitherto unique regulation covers applications that make further purchase or reading recommendations to their users based on their behaviour. In future, it will be forbidden to entice customers to excessively spend money or to make them dependent on an internet service. Software-based pricing, if it is to the detriment of consumers, will therefore also be prohibited. After all, operators must prevent fraud and unfair competition, as well as ensure that no false or illegal content is published. The apps should instead „promote positive energy“.

The law affects a wide range of companies, including internet marketplaces such as Alibaba, which has now become a mega-corporation with numerous integrated apps. Delivery service providers must also now revise their technology. The law furthermore addresses the social networks TikTok or Douyin, which are popular among young people and bombard their users with ever new content. „China: Algorithm law for „positive energy““ weiterlesen

Pistols and ammunition: Frontex chooses weapons manufacturer from Austria

With a „Standing Corps“, the European Union has a uniformed and armed police unit for the first time. Whether Frontex is allowed to buy, store and transport weapons at all, however, is controversial. A planned loan agreement with Greece has not yet materialised.

The European border agency Frontex is equipping its new „Standing Corps“ with firearms from the Austrian arms manufacturer Glock. The company is supplying 2,500 9×19 mm semi-automatic pistols, according to the procurement portal for pan-European tenders, and will receive €3.76 million. The contract, initially concluded for a period of four years, can be extended several times. Glock must guarantee the availability and supply of all parts offered for at least 15 years.

The weapons are supplied with the usual accessories, including additional magazines, holsters, attachable torches, tool kits and cleaning kits. A framework contract also includes training for Frontex shooters and their trainers. „Pistols and ammunition: Frontex chooses weapons manufacturer from Austria“ weiterlesen

Controversial term: German Ministry of the Interior sneaks „Gefährder“ into the EU

In order for state protection departments to be able to cooperate better at EU level in the area of politically motivated crime, they need common definitions of the persons to be prosecuted. A corresponding initiative to this end comes from Germany. This way, threats are prosecuted that have not even occurred yet.

Under the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, neither the Commission nor the Council has powers to coordinate intelligence services. Nevertheless, for the past five years the police agency Europol has been „exploring“ ever closer cooperation with the European „Counter Terrorism Group“ (CTG), in which the domestic services of all Schengen states work together. The EU’s „Intelligence Analysis Centre“ INTCEN in Brussels, which should actually only read secret service reports from the member states, is also being given further powers.

In order to be able to observe and, if necessary, prosecute target persons by police forces and intelligence services alike, a new category must be created. For the police traditionally deal with suspects or accused of a crime, police laws in Germany also know the category of „Gefährder“ who are accused of a concrete, perceivable danger. Intelligence work, on the other hand, is based on the mere suspicion that someone might pose a danger in the future. „Controversial term: German Ministry of the Interior sneaks „Gefährder“ into the EU“ weiterlesen

EU drones for people in distress: Dropping life rafts for pullbacks?

For the first time, drones are flying on behalf of an EU agency with rescue equipment on board. On the high seas, the actually useful technology could encourage illegal refoulements to countries like Libya. Perhaps the new function will only be used for minor maritime emergencies in European waters.

The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) has awarded a new €30 million contract for drone services. It has gone to the Portuguese company Tekever, which is flying an „AR5“ for EMSA since 2016. Reconnaissance missions of this fixed-wing drone are carried out for coast guards of the Schengen member states, that have to submit a corresponding request to the agency for this purpose. According to the tender, the EMSA drones are also to monitor the Mediterranean Sea within the framework of missions of the border agency Frontex.

Tekever equips the „AR5“ with radars, day and night cameras as well as receivers for signals from ships or emergency systems. They can stay in the air for more than 12 hours. In Portugal, Spain, France and Italy, among others, the „AR5s“ have completed more than 1,200 flight hours in almost 250 missions, including surveillance and safety at sea, detecting pollution or combating illegal fishing. „EU drones for people in distress: Dropping life rafts for pullbacks?“ weiterlesen

Frontex and Europol: How refugees are tracked digitally

EU agencies advise increased confiscation and extraction of asylum seekers‘ mobile phones and now provide a manual on how to do so. Apps to encrypt or disguise locations are disliked in the report as „countermeasures“ to surveillance.

Often the mobile phones they carry are the only connection between refugees and their relatives and friends in their country of origin or elsewhere. They contain contacts, personal communication as well as photos and videos as a memory of the home countries. Only within the European Union is it possible to apply for asylum in its member states. Therefore, the phones are also an indispensable aid for navigating to receiving countries and finding out about conditions and support there.

Asylum seekers‘ mobile phones are also of increasing interest to authorities. As punishment for irregular entry, border guards in Greece and Croatia, and most recently at the EU’s external border with Belarus, destroy them before abandoning their owners at sea or forcibly push them back. Police forces, on the other hand, confiscate the phones in order to gain information about routes used and people helping to flee. „Frontex and Europol: How refugees are tracked digitally“ weiterlesen

Unmanned supersaturation attacks

After the German Armed Forces, the EU also wants to research drone swarms that are dropped from a mother ship

The European Union could invest more funds in the development of drone swarms in the future. This is according to documents published by the British non-governmental organisation Statewatch on the next round of funding for the Permanent Structured Cooperation. The initiative, shortened to PESCO after its English name, promotes military cooperation between 25 EU member states. The focus is on the financing and implementation of joint armament projects. A „European Defence Union“ envisaged in this way is also to make greater use of unmanned aerial vehicles.

Among the proposals is the development of a vertically launching large drone with „large number“ of small unmanned rotorcraft inside. These could then be dropped over combat zones. After their mission, they would fly back to the platform autonomously. The project is called „Rotorcraft Docking Station for Drones“ and the leading member state would be Italy with France as another member. The Bundeswehr wants to participate in the project as an observer. Whether the project is actually financed is decided by all member states in the Council of the European Union. „Unmanned supersaturation attacks“ weiterlesen

Billions for Europe’s biometrics giants

All travellers will soon have to submit fingerprints and facial images at the EU’s external borders. For this, large sums of money await companies offering such technologies in each member state. In an „Interoperability Package“, the European Union is spending more money on the systems.

It is estimated that the global market for biometric systems will grow from 28 billion in 2019 to 56 billion Euros in 2024. A large part of this relates to border control technology, including stationary and mobile scanners, sensors, databases, servers and infrastructure for networks. In Europe, this market is dominated by groups such as Idemia, Atos, Sopra Steria (all from France) as well as Accenture (Ireland) and Hewlett Packard (USA). This is how Danish researchers have reconstructed it in a study financed by the EU Commission.

The European Union is paying almost one billion Euros for the expansion of its large migration databases. Some of these information systems are decades old. Some of them have already been renewed, but now they are getting new functions again. In future, the fingerprints and facial images contained in them will be with a „Shared Biometric Matching Service“. „Billions for Europe’s biometrics giants“ weiterlesen

Quitting EU adviser: Gilles de Kerchove invents „left-wing terrorist“ threat

A handful of property damages in Italy could lead to left-wing activism being pursued more closely by police and secret services across the European Union. The initiative bears the hallmarks of the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Meanwhile, a package of measures against „violent right-wing extremism and terrorism“ has petered out.

In the Terrorism Annual Report for 2020 (TESAT), Europol recently counted 24 left-wing and anarchist terrorist attacks. According to the report, the incidents all took place in Italy, with none of them resulting in human casualties. Most of the attacks were on mobile phone masts and other telecommunications infrastructure, such as relays or cables. Meanwhile, the same report counts only one right-wing terrorist attack, Hanau (Germany), which left nine dead, and six jihadist attacks that killed 12 people.

Each country can determine for itself whether the incidents mentioned in the TESAT are classified as „extremist“ or „terrorist“. It is obvious that the high figures for „left-wing terrorism“ are due to the special counting method of Italian authorities. Nevertheless, the EU anti-terrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove has now presented a paper proposing initiatives against a „left-wing terrorism“. „Quitting EU adviser: Gilles de Kerchove invents „left-wing terrorist“ threat“ 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

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