New regulation: Europol becomes quasi-secret service

The EU police agency processes billions of personalised „big data“, much of it from governmental hacks or intelligence sources. The new Europol vice-director, who was trained in the French military, plays a special role. Now it’s up to the EU Parliament to decide.

The day before yesterday, the EU interior ministers agreed on a mandate for negotiations on the amendment of the Europol Regulation. The final draft has already been published by the British civil rights organisation Statewatch. This means that negotiations on the planned law with the EU Parliament can begin. The proposal is controversial, as Europol would be allowed to process data from private entities on a large scale, even if they include innocent people or contact persons of suspects.

Six months ago, the Commission had presented the draft for the new Europol Regulation. According to the proposal, Europol should have an additional 178 million euros and 160 new posts by 2027. Because the police agency would then also be allowed to use the Schengen Information System (SIS II), a proposed amendment of the SIS Regulation is also being discussed. With the new legal and financial powers, Europol would be on its way to becoming a „European FBI“, as some German interior politicians have demanded in recent months. „New regulation: Europol becomes quasi-secret service“ weiterlesen

„Battlefield information“: EU police to cooperate more closely with secret services and military

Authorities in the European Union use biometric data and crime scene evidence from Iraq and Syria to process war crimes, secretly track suspects and control migration. Now the procedure is to be extended to African countries.

After a meeting of EU interior and defence ministers in 2017, authorities in member states have been using so-called „battlefield information“ to fight terrorism. In this way, the authorities want to identify and detect „foreign fighters“ when they cross an external EU border. The procedure is to be expanded, the EU anti-terrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove is therefore calling on governments to engage in a „regular dialogue with their military forces and relevant intelligence and security services“. This is according to two documents posted online by the British civil liberties organisation Statewatch.

„Battlefield information“ comes from countries such as Syria or Iraq, where the „Global Coalition against Daesh“ has been operating militarily since 2014. The intelligence is usually collected there by military secret services. Their dissemination and use goes back to „Operation Gallant Phoenix“, an initiative of the US government. It has a secretariat in Jordan and involves military and intelligence services from 27 Western and Arab states as well as their police authorities. „„Battlefield information“: EU police to cooperate more closely with secret services and military“ weiterlesen

Schengen Information System: Largest European police database now with Ireland

Presumably because of the Corona pandemic, queries to Europe’s largest wanted persons database have dropped drastically. Irish authorities now also participate in the system, but are only allowed to process about a third of the wanted persons entered there.

On Monday, Ireland joined the Schengen Information System (SIS II). This makes the Republic a participant in the largest and most widely used information system in Europe. The SIS II was set up in 1995 partly to compensate for the removal of internal border controls. Another purpose of the system is to improve „internal security“.

In the SIS II, the authorities involved can enter searches for persons and objects. By far the largest part, with about 87 million entries, concerns vehicles or documents reported as lost or stolen. As of 1 January, according to the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, 933,061 persons were listed in the SIS II. After Brexit, around 37,000 UK-registered persons and 4.6 million objects were deleted on 31 December. „Schengen Information System: Largest European police database now with Ireland“ weiterlesen

New freight information system: EU Commission launches pre-declaration with risk analysis

For „safety and security“ purposes, imports into the European Union must be pre-declared in future. This advance data contains information on all persons, companies and means of transport involved in the sale, transport or shipment of the goods.

In two years at the latest, all persons wishing to enter the European Union will have to provide information on the purpose, duration and approximate course of their journey before they start. This „Travel Information and Authorisation System“ will be supplemented by an „Entry/Exit System“, which will document the actual border crossing. In the process, travellers must deposit their biometric data. For the risk analysis, the systems query relevant EU databases, an algorithm searches for anomalies in the data records.

Yesterday, the EU Commission introduced a similar advance procedure for customs with the „Import Control System 2“ (ICS2). In future, all goods to be imported into the EU customs territory must be declared in a cargo information system. It is intended to serve „security and safety“ and to help customs authorities „intervene at the most appropriate point in the supply chain“. Goods whose consignors or consignees have previously been conspicuous can then be checked more deeply, for example. „New freight information system: EU Commission launches pre-declaration with risk analysis“ weiterlesen

Proposals for new Europol Regulation

The EU police agency is to process more „big data“ and receive personal data from private companies. Preventive cooperation with third countries will be expanded, this also concerns secret services.

On 9 December last year, the EU Commission presented a proposal to extend Europol’s mandate. The police agency could therefore initiate investigations itself without waiting for an initiative from a member state. This should also be possible if only one country is involved. Up to now, Europol’s competence has been limited to cases involving two or more member states.

In addition to improved cooperation with the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EuPPO) and the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), cooperation with third countries for the „prevention“ of criminal offences is to be expanded. „Proposals for new Europol Regulation“ weiterlesen

Privileged third country: EU security cooperation with Great Britain after Brexit

British authorities continue to participate in many EU instruments in the area of justice and home affairs, and cooperation in some cases even goes further than with the Schengen states Norway, Iceland or Switzerland. The exit from Europol and the Schengen Information System could strengthen the secret services.

With its withdrawal from the European Union, the UK will have left the „European Area of Freedom, Security and Justice“ as of 1 January 2021, and the country will become a third country from the EU’s perspective. This will also end cooperation within the framework of the Schengen Agreement. The government in London will lose its place as one of the most important partners in the EU security architecture. The loss of participation in the Schengen Information System (SIS II) will probably weigh heavily in the UK. In 2019, British police forces and intelligence services had around 37,000 persons and 4.5 million objects stored there. Many covert Article 36 alerts, which allow police and domestic intelligence to track the movements of wanted persons across the EU, also originated in the UK.

However, British authorities are to be allowed to continue to participate in important EU information systems in the area of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) and also to cooperate with agencies. These are the provisions of the provisional „EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement“ (TCA), which the parties negotiated at the last minute before the turn of the year. „Privileged third country: EU security cooperation with Great Britain after Brexit“ weiterlesen

Prüm Framework: EU Presidency wants a European Weapons Register

In a decentralised system, the police forces of the EU member states network DNA files, fingerprints, vehicle data and soon also facial images. The automated retrieval of data in criminal investigations is now to be extended to firearms. However, a feasibility study had rejected this idea.

The Portuguese EU Presidency proposes to include firearms and their owners in the framework of the so-called Prüm Decisions. This is stated in a document published by Statewatch, according to which the 27 governments are now to start a discussion process. According to the proposal, the weapons registers of the member states are to be interlinked. The member states decided in 2008 to set up these national systems in the EU Weapons Directive.

The Prüm Decisions refer to a treaty that all EU member states also signed in 2008. So far, the networking relates to DNA files, fingerprints and data on motor vehicles and their owners. It is a decentralised system, but connected via a central server. „Prüm Framework: EU Presidency wants a European Weapons Register“ weiterlesen

Behavioural analysis and Twitter check: EU security research tests new „lie detector“ for border control

The EU Court of Justice is to decide how extensively the Commission must inform about a research project sensitive to fundamental rights. The decision is of great significance, because the successor to iBorderCtrl, which has long been terminated, is also problematic.

Last week, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg heard a case on the disclosure of the EU security research projec iBorderCtrl. It was supposed to develop a system for quick and easy border control. Travellers are thereby screened for suspicious behaviour with a risk analysis. It is not known how the platform will implement this in concrete terms. That is why MEP Patrick Breyer, who sits in the Brussels Parliament for the Pirate Party, has sued the EU Commission for more transparency.

From 2023, the EU will put into operation a „Travel Information and Authorisation System“ (ETIAS) in which entries must be declared before crossing the border. This affects all third-country nationals, even if they do not require a visa. iBorderCtrl is one of the projects that should develop or improve individual components of the ETIAS. This includes the fusion and analysis of as much traveller data as possible. „Behavioural analysis and Twitter check: EU security research tests new „lie detector“ for border control“ 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

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