Encrypted communication: UK remains member of EU interception group

Despite Brexit, British police can influence surveillance laws in the EU. The country is also represented in European secret service circles.

Notwithstanding its exit from the European Union, the British police will remain a member of a Standing Heads of Lawful Interception Units based at Europol. The UK is represented there by the National Crime Agency. This was confirmed by the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, in her answer to a parlamentary question by the pirate Patrick Breyer. The UK is thus the only third country in the group, which otherwise consists exclusively of EU members and the Schengen states Norway, Switzerland and Iceland.

The working group of the departments on telecommunications surveillance had once been founded as a strategic „5G Expert Group“ on the initiative of the German Federal Criminal Police Office. It was supposed to give the authorities access to the new telephone standard, which was actually tap-proof. After this was successfully pushed through in the European and international standardisation bodies ETSI and 3GPP, the group was given a new name and new tasks in October 2021. It is now to ensure that the needs of law enforcement agencies are taken into account when amending surveillance laws at EU level and in the member states. „Encrypted communication: UK remains member of EU interception group“ weiterlesen

Disrupted supply chains: Chip shortage hampers new EU databases

An EU agency is building a recognition system with biometric data on 400 million travellers. The contractors seem to have overstretched themselves

In future, anyone wishing to enter the European Union without a visa will have to register in a European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) via a form on the internet, providing information on the purpose and course of the journey. Only with a travel authorisation can the border be crossed. In an Entry/Exit System (EES), all travellers must then submit four fingerprints and a facial image. The biometric data will end up in a huge archive that will be merged with other databases.

In the EU, the introduction of the new information systems is known as Interoperability. Various difficulties in implementation have already delayed the project by several months, and now more complications are on the horizon. This is stated in a presentation by the French Council Presidency, published by the British civil rights organisation Statewatch. According to it, a questionnaire answered by 24 EU member states showed delays in several countries. „Disrupted supply chains: Chip shortage hampers new EU databases“ weiterlesen

Amendment of SIS II Regulation: Europol to coordinate proposals for alerts from third countries

The EU police agency is to receive lists of persons from foreign authorities and then have them alerted in the Schengen area for refusal of entry, arrest or observation. This legalises a questionable procedure that has long been practised.

Can the US FBI put a Tunisian national on a European database for refusal of entry, even if there is no proof that he belongs to a terrorist organisation as claimed? Should it be permissible for Europol to initiate such alerts even at the behest of an intelligence service from Serbia or Egypt, so that the person concerned is arrested when crossing the border into the Schengen area?

It is certain that the Schengen Information System (SIS II) will soon be supplemented by such a regulation. However, it was disputed between the EU Parliament and the Member States in the Council what role Europol should play in mediating such searches for third-country nationals. Tomorrow, the so-called trilogue negotiations are to be concluded with a consensus between Council and Parliament; after their formal decision in the competent bodies, the regulation would then be valid as of summer. „Amendment of SIS II Regulation: Europol to coordinate proposals for alerts from third countries“ weiterlesen

New Western Balkans hub for Europol and Frontex

Although the EU agencies can now cooperate more closely with selected third countries, there have hardly been any formats for the political and strategic agreement of border police measures outside the Schengen area. Austria has now created facts for South Eastern Europe.

After a two-day „Return Conference“, Austria’s Ministry of the Interior announced on Tuesday this week further measures of the „Joint Coordination Platform“ (JCP) „against illegal migration“. The network, which is only one year old, is to conclude „flexible return partnerships“ with Western Balkan states. Behind the term are deportations of people whose request for protection in the EU has been rejected or who decide to return „voluntarily“ for this reason.

At the invitation of the Minister of the Interior, Gerhard Karner (ÖVP), the governments of 22 countries met in the Vienna Hofburg to discuss the situation on the Eastern Mediterranean route and the so-called Balkan route. Among the participants were, besides the Western Balkan third countries, numerous EU members and Switzerland as the only Schengen state. The Union was represented by the Commission’s Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs, the border agency Frontex, the new Asylum Agency and the External Action Service. „New Western Balkans hub for Europol and Frontex“ weiterlesen

Plans for „Prüm II“: EU member states also want to query driving licence facial images

In the framework of the Prüm decisions, police forces have networked their files for fingerprints, DNA data and motor vehicle data across Europe. A new regulation is to extend this to faces. Now there is a threat of further tightening.

With a new „Regulation on automated data exchange for police cooperation“, the European Commission wants to network biometric photographs in police databases across Europe and make them searchable with facial recognition. In this way, a police authority can inquire whether information is available on an unknown person in other countries. A proposal to this effect from last December is currently being discussed by the Council of Ministers of the Interior and Justice, after which the Parliament is to deal with it.

The background is the Prüm Treaty, which seven EU member states signed 17 years ago in the Eifel town. It regulates cooperation in the exchange of fingerprints, non-coding DNA data as well as motor vehicle and owner data. In 2008, the multilateral agreement was transferred into the legal framework of the EU via the EU-Prüm Decision. The Schengen states Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein are also involved in the network, as is Great Britain after Brexit. „Plans for „Prüm II“: EU member states also want to query driving licence facial images“ weiterlesen

New Schengen Council: Frontex as „spearhead“ of new border policy

With a new steering group, the French EU Presidency wants to monitor the coordinates of asylum and migration policy in Europe. The basis is a new measuring instrument for „migratory pressure“.

EU interior ministers have followed the suggestion of French President Emmanuel Macron and decided to set up a Schengen Council at their recent meeting in Lille. The French EU presidency calls it the „most appropriate forum for essential exchange of views at the political level“, according to a document from the Council published yesterday by the British civil liberties organisation Statewatch. It will be constituted at the upcoming Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting in Brussels on 3 and 4 March.

As a steering group, the Schengen Council is to monitor the situation at the EU’s external borders and dovetail it with measures within the Schengen area. In this way, the member states are to prevent further erosion of the freedom of movement and ensure a reduction of internal border controls. Their temporary reintroduction is permitted under the Schengen Borders Code, but since 2015 some states have made excessive use of them. „New Schengen Council: Frontex as „spearhead“ of new border policy“ weiterlesen

EU Commission proposal: With firearms, drones, GPS tracking into neighbouring countries

According to plans of the EU interior ministers, the Schengen states could soon exercise sovereign powers outside their national borders. This would go far beyond existing agreements.

Are French authorities allowed to bug the car of an environmental activist and use hidden cameras when she is on her way to Spain? After blowing up an ATM, can German police pursue suspects as far as the Netherlands and use firearms? How far inland can such an arrest operation go?

The European Union wants to clarify these and other questions in the field of internal security in a new initiative. To this end, the Commission proposed a Council Recommendation on operational police cooperation in December, which is now being discussed by the Member States in the Council. It goes back to the German EU Presidency in the second half of 2020. At that time, the Federal Ministry of the Interior had Conclusions on Internal Security and a European Police Partnership adopted. There, the EU interior ministers committed themselves to more cooperation, information exchange and the use of new technical surveillance methods, also across borders. „EU Commission proposal: With firearms, drones, GPS tracking into neighbouring countries“ 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

Chat control: Schengen states should promote decryption of messengers

The EU Commission is collecting outstanding cases with which it can promote the interception of messengers. Great Britain is going even further.

In six weeks, the European Commission plans to present its proposal for „legislation to effectively combat child sexual abuse“. According to the meeting calendar, this could take place on 2 March as things stand.

Presumably, the package also includes the long-awaited proposal for a regulation to identify, remove and report „illegal online content“ to combat child sexual abuse. Providers of messenger services or chat programmes would be obliged to automatically search their customers‘ communication for relevant material and make it accessible to law enforcement.

Originally, the planned regulation was already announced for spring of last year. The reason for the delay is probably the explosive nature of the law. It also affects encrypted content, including services such as Signal, Threema or Whatsapp. MEP Patrick Breyer has coined the catchword chat control for this forced screening. As with data retention, this is a mass surveillance of all citizens without any reason. „Chat control: Schengen states should promote decryption of messengers“ weiterlesen

Coordination by Europol: Special Intervention Units train with drone carrying explosives and robot dog

Since this year, the ATLAS network has had a Support Office at Europol, with which the police agency coordinates cross-border operations of units from Schengen states. Most of the money from the coming budget will again go to police forces from Germany.

The European Union is further expanding its association of special police units.The so-called ATLAS network, in which 38 Special Intervention Units (SIUs) from the Schengen states coordinate, is working with Europol to build up new capabilities. This is stated in a work programme for 2023 published by the British civil rights organisation Statewatch. According to this, Great Britain will also participate in the cooperation after Brexit.

The ATLAS network, founded after the attacks of 11 September 2001, has been part of the structures of the European Union since 2008 and is managed as one of the 18 expert groups of the Council Working Group on Law Enforcement. The EU wants to use it to prepare for major police situations that require support from other member states. This concerns operations in the event of terrorist attacks, serious and organised crime or other „crisis situations“. „Coordination by Europol: Special Intervention Units train with drone carrying explosives and robot dog“ weiterlesen