Screening of travellers: U.S. wants to query fingerprint databases in Europe

To participate in the Visa Waiver Programme, Israel allows U.S. authorities access to its biometric data. The government in Washington wants to make this mandatory for another 40 countries.

The US government has sent a letter to EU member states announcing an Enhanced Border Security Partnership (EBSP). This would regulate access to fingerprint databases by US border authorities. It would be a condition for countries whose nationals can enter the United visa-free.

The German government also received such a notification via the U.S. Embassy in Berlin on 9 February, the Social Democratic Party-led Ministry of the Interior confirmed in its answer to a parliamentary question. „Essentially, among other things, this is probably intended to enable the exchange of biometric data, among other things of travellers,“ the ministry writes somewhat nebulously, adding that further details are currently being clarified. The regulation is to apply from 2027, it says. „Screening of travellers: U.S. wants to query fingerprint databases in Europe“ weiterlesen

DNA, facial images and fingerprints: German biometric police systems contain 10 million people

Police authorities are increasingly requesting biometric data, more and more often with success. The search is carried out in German and European information systems. However, the results are not always trustworthy.

Since 2008, German police forces have been able to search biometric photographs in the INPOL file at the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA). For this purpose, the authorities use a facial recognition system (GES), which is also made available via the BKA. Currently, about 5.5 million portrait images of 3.6 million persons are stored there for search purposes. This is what the Federal Ministry of the Interior writes in its answer to a parlamentarian question by the Left Party. In addition to the BKA, the Federal Police and the State Criminal Police Offices can also use the GES. In 2021, the authorities made a total of 90,425 queries there, an increase of about 20 per cent compared to 2020. 4,990 persons were identified, compared to 4,403 the year before. „DNA, facial images and fingerprints: German biometric police systems contain 10 million people“ weiterlesen

Facial recognition and police records: European biometric systems to be expanded

A new Prüm system will make it possible to query facial images across Europe in the future, and a central biometric EU repository will also be connected to it

For 14 years, the member states of the European Union have been able to query each other’s fingerprints, non-coding DNA data, motor vehicle and owner data. The basis for this is the Prüm Treaty, which was initially signed by seven EU members in the Eifel town in 2005. Three years later, the EU Prüm Decision followed, making the set of rules for improving police data exchange valid throughout the Union. As non-EU states, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and the United Kingdom also participate in the Prüm network.

To mark the tenth anniversary of the Decision in 2018, the Council proposed to extend cooperation to facial images. The Commission recently presented a draft for such a Prüm II. The paper is now being discussed by the member states in the relevant Council working groups, and the position of the interior and justice ministers is to be determined by spring. Afterwards, the Parliament will deal with it. „Facial recognition and police records: European biometric systems to be expanded“ weiterlesen

German Police: Interventions more than doubled after exchange of passenger data

The EU PNR Directive is leading to more and more interventions by the German authorities. An extension to rail, bus and ship travel is not yet off the table, but before that the Court of Justice in Luxembourg will rule on the legality of the law. Similar agreements with Canada and Japan are apparently no longer coming into being.

The storage and processing of passenger data in air traffic led to significantly more interventions by the German Bundespolizei (Federal Police) last year. According to an annual report that has only just been presented, its headquarters received 25,280 personal data from the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) with a request for so-called follow-up measures. In 2019, this number was still 10,900, according to the report, which results in an increase of around 132 per cent despite a pandemic-related decline in passenger numbers. „German Police: Interventions more than doubled after exchange of passenger data“ 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

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

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

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

German authorities improve face recognition

The Federal Criminal Police Office can search a database with almost 6 million facial images, the system is now being equipped with artificial intelligence

Last week, the German Federal Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer surprisingly moved away from plans to expand facial recognition in public spaces. He had demanded that the use of so-called intelligent video surveillance be anchored in the Federal Police Law. In the current draft of the new law, the topic is now excluded. However, it is questionable whether this really means a renunciation of the technology. The Ministry is of the opinion that § 27 of the Federal Police Act allows the automatic evaluation of camera images anyway. It states that the Federal Police may „use automatic image recording and image capturing devices“. Actually, this meant automatic continuous operation and remote control of video cameras. In the legal literature, it is therefore disputed whether the analysis of images using algorithms or artificial intelligence is covered by this. „German authorities improve face recognition“ weiterlesen

Face recognition after G20: Police in Hamburg laughs at Data Protection Commissioner

Despite an instruction by the Data Protection Commissioner, the police of the Hanseatic city does not want to do without its new face recognition system. In four weeks, the Administrative Court will rule about the dissolution of a specially created database. Without waiting for the verdict, the state government withdraws the sharpest sword from the top data protector.

Even after the deletion order by Johannes Caspar, the Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, the police in Hamburg continue to use a face recognition system. This was written by the red-green senate in response to an inquiry by the left-wing faction in the Hamburg parliament. Since 18 December 2018, a further 92 searches have been carried out in image and video files. This brings the total number of searches for suspects to 782. „Face recognition after G20: Police in Hamburg laughs at Data Protection Commissioner“ weiterlesen