Germany: The state hacks along

With the temporary exception of the Federal Police, all German police agencies and secret services are now allowed to hack into computers and telephones. This is an extremely deep invasion of privacy

On 10 June, the Bundestag massively expanded the use of state trojan horse programmes. A bill on the „adaptation of the law on the protection of the constitution“ was put to the vote, which the MPs adopted with 355 votes of the ruling coalition factions CDU/CSU and SPD. According to the bill, the domestic intelligence service will now also be allowed to penetrate foreign computer systems with the help of spy software. The parliamentary groups DIE LINKE, FDP, Bündnis90/Die Grünen and AfD voted against; the SPD voted five against and three abstained.

The bill „to modernise the legal basis of the Federal Police“ was also passed by the CDU/CSU and SPD against the votes of the opposition. This would have allowed the Federal Police to infiltrate computers and mobile phones, just like the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, without the persons concerned having to have committed a crime. A week ago, the upper house (Bundesrat) overturned this new law for various reasons, so the next federal government will have to deal with it again. The renewed Constitutional Protection Act, on the other hand, remains valid. „Germany: The state hacks along“ weiterlesen

Spotlight on: State Trojans

In Greek mythology, the horse outside the city of Troy was a wooden gift in whose hull some of the hostile Achaeans had hidden. Unsuspecting inhabitants, certain of victory over the invaders, pulled it in, the Achaeans climbed out at night and opened the gates for trailing troops, who then captured and destroyed Troy.

Today’s so called state trojan does not disguise itself as a gift and is active even when the enemy is awake. Nevertheless, the reference to the myth fits, because the wooden horses used by criminal investigation agencies may be installed „by means of criminalistic cunning“. First, the investigators find out how the software can best be installed: As a clandestine installation via websites that appear unsuspecting, in downloaded files or an attachment sent by e-mail. It is also possible to introduce the tool by breaking into the device, for example during a secret search of a flat or a police check. „Spotlight on: State Trojans“ weiterlesen

Germany: Trojans for all

The German Bundestag passed new wiretapping laws for secret services and the Federal Police

In future, German secret services will be able to remotely access private computers or telephones with spy software. They will be allowed to intercept not only ongoing but also „inactive“ communications, i.e. to read out data stored on the devices. This was decided in the Bundestag today with the votes of the ruling coalition of Conservatives (CDU/ CSU) and Socialdemocrats (SPD). The vote was on a „Law on the Adaptation of Legislation on the Protection of the Constitution“, which is intended to facilitate the „reconnaissance of serious threats to our democratic constitutional state“. „Germany: Trojans for all“ weiterlesen

Facial recognition: Number of persons identified in Germany doubles annually

The German police are increasingly using photographs to name unknown persons. More and more, pictures from social networks are being used. Recognition is also possible if the persons are wearing a protective mouth-nose mask. Some authorities also use so-called super-recognisers.

A growing number of people are being identified by German police forces with the help of facial recognition. Since 2018, they have doubled every year; in 2020, this amounted to 4,403 people. This is what the Federal Ministry of the Interior writes in its answer to a written question on the police facial recognition system (GES). Around one third of those affected were named by the Federal Police.

Since 2008, the GES has been centrally managed by the Federal Criminal Police Office and is available to the Federal Police and all 16 State Criminal Police Offices. A query can be made if a person is a suspect but his or her name is not known. The type of offence charged is irrelevant; the system can also be searched in the case of an insult or shoplifting. „Facial recognition: Number of persons identified in Germany doubles annually“ weiterlesen

Taser at the German Federal Police: Shooting from the back

In a year’s time, the German Ministry of the Interior could decide on the nationwide equipment of the Federal Police with electroshock weapons. Until then, the officers may in a pilot project shoot at children as well.

At the beginning of September, the Federal Police Inspectorates Berlin-Ostbahnhof, Kaiserslautern and Frankfurt/Main-Hauptbahnhof started a pilot project on the use of tasers. But the officers are to avoid shots at heart patients. This is stated in an administrative regulation of 7 August, which the Federal Ministry of the Interior has only just published in the governmental „Ministerialblatt“ for the „Taser X2“ model of the US manufacturer Axon. The document can only be obtained for a fee; the FOIA platform „Frag den Staat“ has put it online.

With tasers, the officers shoot tiny arrows connected to a wire, which penetrate the skin by about one centimetre and emit a current pulse of 50,000 volts for several seconds. Those affected feel a very strong pain and are initially completely paralysed. „Taser at the German Federal Police: Shooting from the back“ weiterlesen

Frontex has a weapon problem

According to the new regulation, a total of 1,500 forces are to be located directly at Frontex. This is the first time that the European Union is commanding a police corps with a common uniform. However, there is no legal basis for the planned acquisition of weapons, ammunition and „non-lethal equipment“.

By 2027 the EU Border Agency wants to establish a „Standing Corps“ of 10,000 border police officers. The personnel, almost two-thirds of which are to be recruited by next year, is divided into four categories. 3,000 additional „Category 1“ officers are to be directly subordinated to the agency’s headquarters in Warsaw. At present there are about 1,500 employees working there, most of them are not uniformed. In order to be able to grow up, Frontex is moving its headquarters in 2024 to a new building, also erected in the Polish capital.

With 1,500 officers, the „long-term“ deployment forces in „Category 2“ represent a comparatively small part of the „permanent reserve“. These are personnel from the Member States who are seconded to Frontex for at least 24 months. The German Federal Police will initially deploy 61 police officers, later it is planned to increase to 225. Frontex wants to mobilize 5,500 officers from the Member States for short-term deployments in „Category 3“, and another 1,500 in the „Reserve for Immediate Action“ in „Category 4“. Here the agency will draw on the existing „Rapid Border Intervention Teams“, which have so far only been deployed in Greece. „Frontex has a weapon problem“ weiterlesen

EU database: European domestic secret services increasingly hunt abroad

50,000 people are under secret surveillance throughout Europe by the French police, another 50,000 are to be checked during routine police operations or when crossing the EU border. In the field of secret services, this wanted list is headed by Germany. Requests for such clandestine observation can also come from third countries.

More than 1,500 persons are being observed by the German secret service with the help of the Schengen Information System (SIS II) throughout Europe, the German Federal Ministry of the Interior writes in an overview. Entries are made by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), which is the leading office in the field of clandestine observations in Europe. Secret services in France and Great Britain have each issued alerts for slightly less than 1,500 persons, Sweden 625, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic around 500.

The SIS II has been used for 25 years by border, police, customs and immigration authorities as well as secret services from 26 EU Member States including Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. Last year, almost one million people were wanted from these countries in the SIS II, for example, with a European arrest warrant or for missing persons. However, most entries concern persons who are subject to an entry ban after their deportation. Article 36 of the SIS II Council Decision covers with 168,000 in total a relatively large proportion of these one million, and the number is increasing significantly every year. „EU database: European domestic secret services increasingly hunt abroad“ weiterlesen

EU Presidency: German government wants to use passenger data to track corona infections

In an EU-wide survey, the German Interior Ministry is examining how passenger data could be processed in the fight against the Covid 19 pandemic. This would require a change in the PNR directive. Possibly this would also affect bus and train travel.

On 1 July, Germany took over the EU Council Presidency in rotation. As one of the first initiatives in the area of Justice and Home Affairs, the German Ministry of the Interior is proposing to use passenger name records (PNR) collected from airlines to track Covid-19 infections. To this end, the government has sent a questionnaire to all other EU member states.

PNR data includes all information that travellers leave behind when booking and checking in with an airline, including names and contact details, credit card numbers, IP and e-mail addresses, hotels booked, fellow travellers and food preferences. This information is transmitted twice by the airlines to the relevant authorities in the destination country: when booking and when boarding the aircraft. „EU Presidency: German government wants to use passenger data to track corona infections“ weiterlesen

North and Baltic Sea: German authority orders EU drone surveillance

In several projects, the German Federal Police is testing drones in maritime environments. So far, the unmanned aircrafts have to fly in restricted areas, but soon they could be integrated into civil airspace. The Ministry of Transportation, which responsible for this, is now asking the European Union to provide drone flights.

The German Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH) has requested drone flights from the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). In coordination with the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI), to which the BSH is accountable. The BMVI is now providing details in its response to a parliamentary question.

Accordingly, it is a three-month test phase which is intended to supplement the BSH’s ship exhaust gas measurement network. The authority will use it to examine the gas plumes of passing ships and calculate the fuel sulfur content, which in Germany may only contain 0.1 percent.The drones should also map tidal flats and shallow water areas. The ministry is not writing whether this is done for the construction of further offshore facilities. „North and Baltic Sea: German authority orders EU drone surveillance“ weiterlesen

Significantly more facial recognition at German police

Queries of biometric photographs in the INPOL file are increasing drastically; at the Federal Police they have more than tripled in comparison with the previous year. Face recognition is also becoming increasingly successful, with twice as many people being identified as in 2018.

In public spaces, police authorities in Germany do not use facial recognition in real time, but retrospectively. The technology is intended to identify unknown persons whose photos were taken by video surveillance, for example, near crime scenes. After the G20 summit in Hamburg in 2017, the police there also wanted to determine suspected criminals with facial recognition, but the success was poor.

The biometric facial images with which the photos of unknown persons are compared are stored in the police database INPOL-Z. Although it is centrally managed by the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), it is operated together with the state criminal investigation offices. The Federal Police can also access it. The number of photographs stored with personal data in INPOL has once again risen significantly, with around 5.8 million portrait photographs of 3.65 million people. Compared to 2018, the increase is about five percent (310,000 photos). „Significantly more facial recognition at German police“ weiterlesen