Counter-terrorism and the inflation of EU databases

Heiner Busch and Matthias Monroy. Translation by Viktoria Langer

The topic of counter-terrorism in Europe remains closely linked to the development and expansion of police (and secret service) databases. This was the case in the 1970s, after 11 September 2001 and has also been the case since 2014, when the EU Member States started working on their action plans against ‚foreign terrorist fighters‘.

The first effect of this debate has been a quantitative one: the amount of data in the relevant databases has increased explosively since 2015. This can be seen by looking in particular at available data on the Europol databases, like ‚Focal Points‘ (formerly: Analytical Work Files) of the Europol analysis system. Since 2015 they have become one of the central instruments of the European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC) which was established in January 2016. Counter-terrorism and the inflation of EU databases weiterlesen

Pretty complicated: The European data landscape

The Council of the European Union has published a diagram of all of information systems in the realm of justice and home affairs. This overview includes databases operated by the police, customs and agencies, as well as by Interpol. It also features the agreement between the EU and the USA on exchanging data regarding financial transactions.

A new diagram is intended to make it easier for delegations from European Union member states to get to grips with the data landscape in the area of justice and home affairs. This was against the backdrop of the High Level Expert Group on Information Systems and Interoperability launched in the summer of last year, which is tasked with the development of proposals to improve file-sharing. The group is made up of members of the Commission and the member states, as well as external “experts”.

All existing information systems are to be assessed and tested for their usefulness. Uniform formats that are developed by the Bundeskriminalamt (Federal Criminal Police Office) and the police agency Europol are envisaged. A further aim is to improve the quality of the data supplied. A problem that the authorities run up against when dealing with decentralised systems is the fact that the member states often use different software programmes. The Expert Group is working to assess the feasibility of centralising systems in such cases. Pretty complicated: The European data landscape weiterlesen

The road to a population register: EU Commission outlines roadmap for a “common repository of data”

With the statement “Data protection is all well and good, but in times of crisis like these, security takes precedence” the German Minister of the Interior called in March 2016 for a restructuring of EU databases. Major information systems, including biometric data, will be centralised on a step-by-step basis. The planned population register also affects EU citizens.

In April last year, the European Commission established a “high-level group of experts” (HLEG) to investigate „current shortcomings and knowledge gaps of information systems at Union level“. The group aims to find possible ways of improving IT systems and their interoperability. Previously, Federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière (CDU) called for the European Union to improve links between its data repositories. The Commission has now presented the interim report of the HLEG. The road to a population register: EU Commission outlines roadmap for a “common repository of data” weiterlesen

About the implementation of the EU Directive on the use of passenger name record data

The PNR directive obliges air carriers to collect a whole host of data and pass it on to the border authorities in advance of all flights. This information includes registration data, seat and flight numbers, along with food preferences, credit card details or IP addresses. PNR passenger information units (PIUs) in the Member States then analyse the information to identify “suspects and anomalous travel patterns”.

On 27 April, the European Parliament and the Council adopted the Directive on the use of passenger name record (PNR) data. Information collected at the booking stage can now be used by police forces and intelligence services to “prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute” terrorist offences or serious crime. For flights from and to the EU, up to 60 individual pieces of data on passengers are collected and stored for five years. These include registration data, seat and flight numbers, along with food preferences, credit card details or IP addresses.

The collection of PNR data not only applies to airlines, but also to travel agencies, tour operators or other service providers who book flights. In the future, the plan is for European PNR data to also be exchanged with third countries or international organisations.   About the implementation of the EU Directive on the use of passenger name record data weiterlesen

EU adds facial recognition capabilities to police databases

Last week, the European Commission published its proposal to recast the EURODAC Regulation, which includes plans for longer storage periods, an expansion of data categories and comparison capabilities, and mandatory fingerprinting and photographing. To date, EURODAC has been used for comparison of fingerprints.

Now the system is also to store facial images and facial recognition capabilities are to be added. There are two different search options. When checks are taking place, people’s images can be compared with available personal data to verify their identity (known as 1:1 matching). However, it is also possible to search for a face in the entire database (1:n). EU adds facial recognition capabilities to police databases weiterlesen