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
Frontex should actually control the new EU external borders at the Rock of Gibraltar. According to an EU paper, however, the Guardia Civil will take over border tasks there for the first time. In addition to maritime surveillance, this concerns queries of the Schengen Information System or the new EU travel register ETIAS and the imposition of entry bans into the British exclave.
Literally at the last minute, the European Commission and the UK have agreed on a post-Brexit deal. The Trade and Cooperation Agreement concluded on 31 December regulates numerous aspects of future coexistence. Among other things, fishing quotas, but also the uncontrolled border crossing between the British Northern Ireland and the EU member Ireland were disputed until the end.
Brexit also has far-reaching effects on Gibraltar. However, the overseas territory, which has belonged to Great Britain for over 300 years, appears in the agreement exactly once: According to the final provisions, its regulations „shall neither apply to Gibraltar nor have any effects in that territory“. The small town at the Rock is therefore also not part of the EU Customs Union and the Schengen area. Spain would thus have had to introduce border controls on goods and people from Gibraltar from 1 January 2021. This is a major problem in the region, as every day around 15,000 people commute from Spain to work at the crossing in the small town of La Linea to the much richer Gibraltar. „Spain wants to station its gendarmerie in Gibraltar“ weiterlesen
Turkish unmanned aerial vehicles are smaller and much cheaper than their US counterparts. They can be procured in large numbers, so their loss in action is of little consequence.
There is growing support in the UK for a new programme with smaller armed drones. This is what the daily „Guardian“ writes with reference to senior officials of the British Ministry of Defence. According to the paper, the military should procure light-weight unmanned aerial vehicles like those used by Turkey in Azerbaijan’s attack on the region around Nagorno-Karabakh. These are significantly cheaper than the US combat drones currently flown by the Air Force. Therefore, they could be bought in much larger numbers.
Azerbaijan’s six-week war against the Armenian-defended region of Nagorno-Karabakh is considered the first to be decided with the help of drones. The Azerbaijani military used so-called kamikaze drones of the type „Harop“ from Israel, which can circle over the area of operations for hours before hitting. The German Army had also considered procuring these „loitering munitions“ until 2013, but initially postponed the plans until 2019 and later abandoned them in favour of larger drones. „After the war over Nagorno-Karabakh: British military flirts with Turkish-style armed drones“ weiterlesen
European police forces are organised in three informal networks for the exchange of information on techniques and methods of clandestine surveillance. The German Presidency wants to merge the structures and establish them with the EU. Europol could be responsible for coordination.
Police tasks include clandestine surveillance, for example to convict suspects of a crime or to prevent the commission of further offences. To this end, the authorities use technical means to listen to the spoken word, to observe with miniaturised cameras or to trace with tracking devices.
To improve covert observation and surveillance, European authorities are joining forces in three networks. Police authorities from Eastern Europe, Finland and Malta are members of the „Surveillance Cooperation Group“ (SCG) founded in Prague in 2017. The countries of the Western Balkans as well as Austria join forces in the „Surveillance Expert Network for Southeast Europe“ (SENSEE). All other EU Member States, the associated Schengen members Norway and Switzerland as well as Europol are organised in the „European Surveillance Group“ (ESG). Great Britain is also still participating in this group. „German proposal: EU to take over working group on covert observation and surveillance“ weiterlesen
Germany uses its EU Presidency to reorganise digital surveillance in Europe. A 5G working group temporarily set up by the BKA is now being consolidated at Europol. It is to coordinate the „operational capabilities“ in the Member States and facilitate interception through new legislative proposals.
The German Presidency of the EU Council wants to set up a Europe-wide working group on the interception of telecommunications by police forces and secret services. This emerges from a document put online by the British civil rights organisation Statewatch. The „Permanent Group of the Heads of Interception Units“ is to consist of the departments responsible in several Member States.
With this initiative, the German Government wants to improve the „operational capabilities“ in the Member States. However, a central office for interception of telecommunications located at the European Union is probably not adressed, as this would be contrary to the EU treaties. Europol could, however, take on an intermediary role, as it does in the cross-border tracking of GPS transmitters, and ensure that in cross-border investigations different authorities do not monitor the same telephone lines. „Lawful interception: German government sets up new surveillance unit at Europol“ weiterlesen
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
Four European states now have armed drones, two of which already use them to combat „terrorism“. Another four might consider to weaponize units which have already been ordered, including Germany. All leading manufacturers of unmanned weapons systems from the USA, China, Turkey and Israel could then be represented in Europe.
The Serbian government has received a delivery of armed drones from China. Six CH-92A („Rainbow“) drones and 18 air-to-ground missiles arrived at a military airport near Belgrade a few days ago, according to local media.
The two systems are comprised of three drones each and the respective ground stations. Serbia had ordered a total of nine drones, which together are said to have cost around 27 million Euros. According to reports, a follow-up order for a further 15 drones has been agreed. „Ukraine and Serbia are new European drone powers“ weiterlesen
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
Following a decision by the Council, the government in Great Britain has to work through a long list of shortcomings regarding participation in Europe’s largest police database. Although most omissions are even classified as serious and should therefore be rectified „without delay“, the British Home Office remains stubborn. Actually, such cases should lead to a decoupling.
The British government does not want to repair several errors in the national implementation of the Schengen Information System (SIS). The EU Commission had called for 34 shortcomings to be remedied, but according to a now published note from Brussels, Britain is only following six of these recommendations. Among the persistent shortcomings are the creation of copies of the SIS or the lack of assistance in searches from the associated Schengen countries. Measures such as making the SIS easier to use or the installation of a screen so that the contents of the screen cannot be viewed during a border check have however been implemented. „Refusal from London: British problems in the Schengen Information System remain“ weiterlesen
The International Police Organisation is developing a system to identify unknown persons by facial images. Interpol stores photos and videos from Internet service providers and other companies in a separate database. Interpol has also been using Clearview services for face recognition.
The US company Clearview AI has collected around three billion personal images from the Internet and used them to create a facial recognition database. This was reported in the New York Times six weeks ago. Most of the pictures were taken from social media profile photos, and it is likely that Clearview will also store the corresponding user data. Clearview offers companies and government agencies the option of identifying individuals by querying the database. According to reports, the facial images can also be searched with a photo app, which according to the New York Times is distributed among „rich people“.
The U.S. magazine Buzzfeed has obtained a client list from Clearview. It contains over 2,200 companies, governments and police authorities, including Interpol. The worldwide police organization has conducted more than 320 searches. „Clearview AI: What does Interpol use face recognition for?“ weiterlesen