Predicting crime and profiling: Europol and Frontex turn to artificial intelligence

The EU police agency will soon receive a new regulation that will allow sensitive personal data to be used for research purposes. Corresponding projects are already underway. As early as next year, the EU border agency wants to use an AI-based lie detector for immigration control.

The European police agency Europol has existed in The Hague since 1999. Its tasks include the storage and processing of data generated in the course of police investigations. Europol has set up a comprehensive Europol Information System (EIS) for this purpose, which currently contains around 1.3 million objects and 250,000 persons. It is filled by police forces from EU member states using a „data loader“ in an automated procedure. In addition, the agency operates files on various crime areas in so-called analysis projects, including, for example, terrorism, organised crime, cybercrime or drug-related crime.

Europol is only competent if a crime that has been committed or is suspected of being committed affects two or more member states. In this case, however, the agency may also process information on contact persons, witnesses or victims of a crime. This data is processed by a software that searches for so-called cross-matches. Europol hopes that this search for connections between crimes or perpetrators will lead to new investigative approaches. „Predicting crime and profiling: Europol and Frontex turn to artificial intelligence“ weiterlesen

Future Combat Air System: Industry squabbles over largest European defence project

The governments of France, Germany and Spain want to develop an AI-based air defence network by 2040. It consists of a new generation of fighter jets accompanied by swarms of drones. A „Combat Cloud“ will then ensure networking with other units on the ground and in the air.

The next stage in the development of a new type of an European air combat system will be delayed. The reason is disputes over competencies among the defence companies involved, which therefore let a deadline for submitting bids on 5 February expire. This was the response of the German Federal Ministry of Defence to a question from Tobias Pflüger, member of the Bundestag. According to this, there are not yet „consented individual offers“ in all technology areas.

Together with France, Germany wants to develop a nuclear-capable „Future Combat Air System“ (FCAS) over the next 20 years, which essentially consists of a new type of combat aircraft. It is to belong to the so-called „sixth generation“ and therefore bears the designation „Next Generation Fighter“ (NGF). In the meantime, Spain has also joined the project. „Future Combat Air System: Industry squabbles over largest European defence project“ weiterlesen

Venezuela: Interpol stops dissemination of German arrest warrant

For 27 years, the German police have been using dubious means to arrest three people from the left-wing spectrum in the case of the so-called K.O.M.I.T.E.E. But the crimes they are accused of have long since become time-barred. However, the police is still pursuing the idea.

The Commission for the Control of Data held by Interpol (CCF) has lifted a „Red Notice“ against German national Thomas Walter because he is in asylum proceedings in Venezuela. This is reported by the support website of the three persons wanted in the so-called K.O.M.I.T.E.E. case. The manhunt for the arrest was initiated by the German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) after the Federal Supreme Court (BGH) issued arrest warrants for Walter, Bernhard Heidbreder and Peter Krauth, also from Germany, as members of a „terrorist organisation“.

The K.O.M.I.T.E.E. is suspected of having carried out an arson attack on a Bundeswehr building in Bad Freienwalde 27 years ago, in which no one was injured. A year later, the group allegedly tried to blow up a deportation prison under construction in Berlin-Grünau. A police patrol was alerted to the fact that the construction site had been cordoned off for this purpose. The perpetrators fled, the building remained unharmed. According to the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), evidence was found in a vehicle left behind at the scene of the crime, which was attributed to the three wanted men. „Venezuela: Interpol stops dissemination of German arrest warrant“ weiterlesen

The armed „Eurodrone“ is also to fly with wiretapping technology

On its website, the German Ministry of Defence gives the impression that the mass production of an EU combat drone has already been decided. First, however, the Bundestag is to vote on it. The Social Democratic Party is thus faced with a decision of great consequence.

The „Eurodrone“, for which the German government, together with the governments of France, Italy and Spain, wants to spend 7.1 billion euros, is also to be used for signal intelligence (SIGINT) purpose. This was announced by the Ministry of Defence on Friday under the headline „Eurodrone will improve Bundeswehr reconnaissance“ on its website. Until now, only imaging intelligence (IMINT) and armament had been discussed as possible applications.

The „Eurodrone“ could thus succeed the „Euro Hawk“ project, which failed miserably. High-flying drones of the HALE class (High Altitude, Long Endurance) were to carry three digital interception modules ordered by the Bundeswehr from the Airbus Group. After the US manufacturer Northrop Grumman had delivered a first prototype for test flights, the then Defence Minister Thomas de Maizière (CDU) pulled the „ripcord“ on the project in summer 2013. To operate in German airspace, the drones needed a system to detect and avoid other aircraft. The US government and Northrop Grumman had withheld important documents needed for the approval process. „The armed „Eurodrone“ is also to fly with wiretapping technology“ weiterlesen

Passenger data at German police: Many „matches“ but far fewer „hits“

According to an EU directive, air passengers must accept that their data is collected, screened with police databases and then stored. For the first time, the German Federal Ministry of the Interior writes which individual alerts lead to police measures at the airport.

Since the summer of 2018, the German Passenger Name Record Unit (PIU) at the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) has been processing passenger data collected under the EU PNR Directive. These „Passenger Name Records“ are intended to help track and prevent terrorist offences and serious crime. Last year, the BKA identified 5,347 persons in this way who subsequently became the target of police measures. This is what the Federal Ministry of the Interior writes in its reply to a parlamentarian question. The year before, the figure was 1,960.

The implementation of the EU PNR Directive is regulated in the German Flight Data Act (FlugDaG). All passenger data collected during the booking process must be transmitted by the airlines and travel agencies to the PIU first at the time of booking and again at the time of boarding. There they will be stored for five years as part of the „Passenger Information System“. Before that, they are checked against the German INPOL police database. A further comparison is made with the Schengen Information System (SIS II). „Passenger data at German police: Many „matches“ but far fewer „hits““ weiterlesen

EU has spent over 300 million on surveillance with drones in four years

Unmanned systems have been flying regularly for the European Union’s agencies since 2017. Now, member states are also receiving funding for drones at their external borders. Soon, remote-controlled patrol boats could be deployed.

The EU Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) has published a new call for unmanned surveillance of European maritime areas. A company is being sought via the European tendering platform „Ted“ to carry out an initial 2,300 flight hours with larger drones for 20 million Euros. They are to operate in a radius of at least 500 kilometres and remain in the air for more than ten hours. According to the plans, the drones will operate without a runway. This should make it possible to decide quickly and flexibly on their deployment to an operational area.

With the new order, the EU Commission has spent at least 308 million Euros on the use of drones since 2017. That does not include research and development of drone services. A study presented in 2014 by the British non-governmental organisation Statewatch, for example, put this at around 500 million euros. „EU has spent over 300 million on surveillance with drones in four years“ weiterlesen

Schengen Information System: Fingerprint matching now obligatory throughout the EU

For two years now, the largest European police database has had a technique for cross-checking dactyloscopic data. The proportion of false hits is said to be in the per mille range. A comparable German system contains data records on 5.3 million persons.

In 2013, the EU Commission completed years of work on upgrading the Schengen Information System to the second generation (SIS II). Since then, it has also been possible to store fingerprints in Europe’s largest police database. The European Agency for the Operational Management of Large-Scale IT Systems (eu-LISA), which is organisationally responsible for SIS II, has set up an „Automatic Fingerprint Identification System“ (AFIS) for this purpose. Its use is regulated in the latest version of the SIS II Regulation.

However, it has only been possible to search this biometric data since 2018. In this way, an unknown person who gives no or false personal details in a police check can be identified with their dactyloscopic data. This requires that the person concerned has previously been put on the wanted list in the Schengen Information System.The system can be used for arrest, clandestine observation, deportation, prevention of re-entry or as a missing person. „Schengen Information System: Fingerprint matching now obligatory throughout the EU“ weiterlesen

Can police databases kill?

It is hardly possible for asylum seekers to correct wrong entries in German information systems. In North Rhine-Westphalia, these false entries led to the death of Amad Ahmad. In Hesse, too, this digital police arbitrariness is now becoming evident.

On 29 September 2018, Amad Ahmad, originally from Syria, died of his burn injuries in the Sankt Antonius Hospital in Kleve. Twelve days earlier, the 26-year-old had been found in his burning cell in the prison in the district town. He or someone else had piled up the mattress, bedding and sheets and set them on fire. Because there are no smoke detectors in the cells of the prison in North Rhine-Westphalia, Ahmad could only be rescued after long minutes and therefore only with severe burns.

The case has been investigated by a sub-committee of the Düsseldorf state parliament for almost two years. It is not only the circumstances of Ahmad’s death that are to be clarified. In fact, the Syrian was suicidal. However, the fact that he really wanted to die does not fit with the fact that he triggered the emergency call via the intercom and apparently opened the windows. „Can police databases kill?“ weiterlesen

Where have all the military drones gone?

The German Bundeswehr is one of the armies that flew unmanned systems for reconnaissance already in the 1960s. The first aircraft resembled a model aeroplane and came from the US Army, later they looked like a rocket. From the turn of the millennium, Airbus in particular benefited from the German drone programme.

According to various answers given by the Ministry of Defence to parliamentary questions, the Bundeswehr today has almost 1,000 unmanned aerial vehicles in various designs and sizes. Not counted are aircraft that have been lost; as explained by a list from 2013, about one in seven Bundeswehr drones crashes or is destroyed during an emergency landing.

It is little known that Germany is one of the countries that have been using unmanned military systems for many decades. The first projects date back to the early 1960s, when the Ministry of Defence sent 22 soldiers to the Grafenwöhr military training area to train on US drones. Further soldiers were trained as maintenance and repair personnel in the USA. „Where have all the military drones gone?“ weiterlesen

Facial recognition at German police authorities increased by more than a third

Millions of faces, fingerprints and palm prints are stored in German police databases. Law enforcement agencies are also processing more and more biometric data at the EU level.

The comparison of photographs by German police authorities has again increased sharply in the past year. This is shown by statistics based on information provided by the Federal Ministry of the Interior in a parliamentary interpellation. According to this, a total of 76,535 queries were made in the facial recognition system of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) in 2020. The year before, there were still around 54,000 queries, so the increase is more than a third (2018: 41,000, 2017: 27,000). According to the statistics, most of the searches come from the criminal investigation offices, which is also where the greatest increase was recorded.

Since 2009, the BKA has made it possible for the state criminal investigation offices and the Federal Police to identify unknown persons with the help of the central police information system (INPOL-Z). In the database, the BKA stores photographs mainly from the identification service. The „Z“ stands for „central file“, which is kept by the BKA but filled by all police authorities. „Facial recognition at German police authorities increased by more than a third“ weiterlesen