EU opens its biggest database for secret services from third countries

In the Schengen Information System, police and secret services may, inter alia, issue alerts for secret monitoring. Authorities from non-EU states can now have searches carried out via a detour. The German government remains silent about the exact role of its own secret service.

The Schengen Information System (SIS) is the largest European database, which has been used for 25 years by border, police, customs or immigration authorities and secret services. Today’s SIS II involves 26 EU Member States (all except Ireland and Cyprus) as well as Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. As of 1 January 2020, more than 90 million people and objects were stored. Most of the entries, which increase every year, come from Italy, followed by France and Germany. The number of searches is also growing rapidly, with almost seven billion of them reported last year. That is about 220 searches per second.

Each Member State is responsible for the accuracy of its entries and must respect deadlines for deletion. Information that is stored in SIS II may also come from third countries, which is part of the normal practice of police forces and secret services. Last year, however, the European Union launched a pilot project to extend these entries to selected „trusted third countries“ and to find a uniform procedure for handling them. „EU opens its biggest database for secret services from third countries“ weiterlesen

SPECTRE Project: EU finances technology for undercover investigations

Police forces from 34 countries have been investigating criminal networks in South Eastern Europe since 2017, money comes from the Internal Security Fund of the European Union. In addition to all kinds of espionage and wiretapping technology, they also pay informers.

For undercover investigations, European police forces use miniaturized surveillance technology, but usually remain extremely secretive about how it works. Since 2017, spy cameras, pocket microphones, mini drones and other equipment have also been procured through an EU project. This is why the European Commission had to provide details of the small devices in response to a parliamentary question. „SPECTRE Project: EU finances technology for undercover investigations“ weiterlesen

France and Germany launch new joint police force

Together with the Gendarmerie Nationale, the German Federal Police will be sent to former French colonies. The joint unit is already deployed during summit protest, football matches and in „border areas“

At present, the German Federal Police sends around 200 officers on missions outside the European Union. In „Police Reconstruction Aid“, they are working as „trainers, mentors and observers“. The Federal Police also regularly train police forces in third countries, mostly in the field of air and border security and the recognition of false identity documents. In Africa, the Federal Police is particularly active in Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco. In the summer, German officers travelled to Niger for an „exchange of experience“.

Now the German government want to extend its police engagement in Africa to former French colonies. The operations will be carried out within the framework of the new „Franco-German Task Force“ („Deutsch-Französische Einsatzeinheit“, DFEE) with the French National Gendarmerie. The two governments had agreed the set up as a „joint unit for stabilisation operations in third countries“ in the Treaty of Aachen. On the German side, the DFEE is stationed at the Federal Police in Bad Bergzabern in Rhineland-Palatinate, in France at the Prefecture of Grand Est in Metz. „France and Germany launch new joint police force“ weiterlesen

Germany: Many „silent SMS“ at federal and state level

Inquiries in parliaments and under the Freedom of Information Act show the amount of secret text messages to find out the whereabouts of telephones and their owners. Police use the method in real time for arrests, while secret services create longer-term movement profiles with it.

„Silent SMS“ are text messages whose reception is not indicated by the mobile phone. However, they generate a communication process that is logged by the telephone providers. With a court order, security authorities query this data record. Police and secret services are interested in the radio cells in which the phones are located. In this way, they obtain the location and a movement profile of the persons concerned.

For some years now, biannual inquiries to the German government have documented that the figures for „silent SMS“ at the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) and the Federal Police are at a similar level. The highest value for both authorities together was in the first half of 2016 at around 138,000, the lowest in the first half of 2019 at around 26,000. Subsequently, the figures have more than doubled again, the Federal Ministry of the Interior announced last week. „Germany: Many „silent SMS“ at federal and state level“ weiterlesen

The tracking bug in your pocket: Mobile phone surveillance in Germany

Procedures according to §§ 100 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (StPO) to determine the whereabouts and identification of mobile phones in Germany

In addition to telecommunications surveillance (§ 100a StPO) and online searches (§ 100b StPO), German police authorities use technical means within the framework of §§ 100 StPO to determine the location of mobile phones. These include the so-called „silent SMS“, IMSI-Catcher and cell site analysis. Customs and the secret services are also partially authorised to perform these tasks. Six-monthly parliamentary inquiries in the Bundestag document that the number of measures for federal authorities has remained at about the same level in recent years. According to the figures of individual states, the investigative methods under Sections 100 of the Code of Criminal Procedure are in some cases used much more frequently there than by federal authorities. Some measures for the localisation of telephone owners are in a grey area and have led to legal adjustments. A ruling by the Federal Court of Justice last year could be the reason why the figures for „silent SMS“ have suddenly fallen sharply. Some federal states are currently merging into „Joint Competence and Service Centres“ in the field of police telecommunications surveillance (GKDZ), which are being set up in Hamburg and Leipzig/Dresden. It is possible that with these centralised GKDZs, the number of measures for telecommunications surveillance within the framework of §§ 100 StPO will increase further. „The tracking bug in your pocket: Mobile phone surveillance in Germany“ weiterlesen

German water cannons: High pressure against disobedience

The German police forces have received new water cannons since 2010. The allocation of the vehicles is known, but suddenly the Federal Ministry of the Interior makes a mystery of it.

The German Ministry of the Interior has financed new water cannons for the state police forces, and the Federal Police also received 15 vehicles. The Ministry does not want to reveal the distribution of these „Water Cannons 10000“ („WaWe10“) to the individual federal states and treats the answer to a parliamentary inquiry as classified.

The reason given is that the announcement of the locations is suitable for „enabling conclusions to be drawn about the tactical potential of the riot police“. This would enable unspecified persons to „direct disturbances against public safety and order towards them“. „German water cannons: High pressure against disobedience“ weiterlesen

German federal states test police software with Palantir function

For police investigations, publicly available data on the Internet plays an important role. The information is also used more intensively in everyday police work and combined with information from several police databases.

Under the name SENTINEL, German police authorities from three federal states have tested new software for „mission management“. During an investigation, the application searches in social media for the location and current photos of the target person. Prior to police access, information on access to buildings or construction measures can also be queried. The software should also show possible escape routes of the wanted persons via an Internet search.

The research project lasted 18 months and was led by the German Police University in Münster. The police headquarters in Osnabrück and the police headquarters in Dortmund and Munich were involved. The costs of 84,600 euros were borne by the private Stüllenberg Foundation in Hamburg. Last week, the participants presented their results at a final conference. „German federal states test police software with Palantir function“ weiterlesen

EU facial recognition

Police and secret services can currently search facial images only in individual EU Member States. The EU wants to change that

The European Union wants to make it much easier for police to cross-check facial images. In the future, it will be possible to compare search photos with corresponding databases in all member states. Such a search could be carried out with still images from surveillance cameras in order to identify an unknown person. At present, each country in the EU must be contacted individually for this purpose.

The relevant facial image databases are usually held by police authorities. In Germany, this is the police information system INPOL, which is maintained at the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) for all German police departments. More than four million searchable photographs are currently stored there, many of them from police measures after an arrest. „EU facial recognition“ weiterlesen

„Obstacles to surveillance“: How authorities insecure 5G telephony

In the fifth generation of mobile communications, encrypted and anonymous connections are technically feasible. Police and secret services, however, provide new interception possibilities

Following the auction of frequencies, mobile operators are building the new 5G network. This fifth generation of mobile phones is considered particularly secure because of its concept of „Privacy by Design“. Connections can be encrypted end-to-end, which makes interception much more difficult. The device numbers of the telephones and the unique identification of the SIM cards are also transmitted in encrypted form. Under 5G, the registered mobile phones also recognize suspicious mobile cells. This makes the IMSI catcher currently in use unusable for locating and listening to telephones in the vicinity.

The new possibilities for encryption and anonymisation are causing police forces and secret services headaches. The German Federal Ministry of the Interior complains of „additional technical hurdles in the monitoring of telecommunications and the implementation of technical investigation measures“ and announces „adjustments“ of the telecommunications legislation. „„Obstacles to surveillance“: How authorities insecure 5G telephony“ weiterlesen