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

Facial recognition at German police authorities increased by more than a third

Millions of faces, fingerprints and palm prints are stored in German police databases. Law enforcement agencies are also processing more and more biometric data at the EU level.

The comparison of photographs by German police authorities has again increased sharply in the past year. This is shown by statistics based on information provided by the Federal Ministry of the Interior in a parliamentary interpellation. According to this, a total of 76,535 queries were made in the facial recognition system of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) in 2020. The year before, there were still around 54,000 queries, so the increase is more than a third (2018: 41,000, 2017: 27,000). According to the statistics, most of the searches come from the criminal investigation offices, which is also where the greatest increase was recorded.

Since 2009, the BKA has made it possible for the state criminal investigation offices and the Federal Police to identify unknown persons with the help of the central police information system (INPOL-Z). In the database, the BKA stores photographs mainly from the identification service. The „Z“ stands for „central file“, which is kept by the BKA but filled by all police authorities. „Facial recognition at German police authorities increased by more than a third“ weiterlesen

Brexit agreement: Close EU police cooperation with the UK continues

British authorities retain access to the EU-wide exchange of PNR data and are allowed to query biometric records in EU member states. Additional agreements regulate close cooperation with Europol and the rapid extradition of wanted persons. However, the UK must leave Europe’s largest manhunt database.

Even after Brexit, Britain retains an important place in the European Union’s security architecture. The Trade and Cooperation Agreement presented by the EU Commission and the British government at Christmas reaffirms the „need for strong cooperation between national police and judicial authorities“.

Among the „areas of mutual interest“ are law enforcement and judicial cooperation in criminal and civil matters. To combat and prosecute cross-border crime and terrorism, British authorities may continue to participate in important EU information systems and also cooperate with agencies. Each of the new forms of cooperation is subject to the obligation to respect the European Convention on Human Rights. There is no way to involve the European Court of Justice for legal action concerning any of the measures foreseen in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. „Brexit agreement: Close EU police cooperation with the UK continues“ weiterlesen

Advertising for police databases: Germany wants „European Data Quality Day“

Alerts in the Schengen Information System are increasing significantly every year, entries in Europol databases are also continuing to grow. The German government now wants to use video messages and giveaways to promote the acceptance of the largest European police database.

The German EU Council Presidency wants to introduce a „European Data Quality Day“ (EDQD) in the EU Member States to improve the quality of police data bases. The Federal Ministry of the Interior already sent out a questionnaire on this subject in September, now a proposal is to be discussed at the EU Council of Interior and Justice Ministers. The action day is to be repeated annually and is part of the „European Police Partnership“ (EuPP), which the Federal Government announced on the occasion of its Presidency.

The initiative is mainly aimed at the use of the Schengen Information System (SIS II). Thus, the Member States are to enter more arrest warrants in the database. Improvements are also to be made with regard to incorrect spelling of first names and surnames or changes of name. In some Member States, the SIS II will no longer show previous entries of the person after a marriage. „Advertising for police databases: Germany wants „European Data Quality Day““ weiterlesen

SIS 3.0: Thousands of new authorities use the Schengen Information System

After police, customs and immigration offices, numerous non-police authorities are now connected to Europe’s largest database for security purposes. All Schengen states now have to implement three new regulations. Surprisingly, there is resistance in Switzerland. In the end, the country may even leave the network.

With the implementation of three new regulations, some 2,000 additional German federal, state and local authorities will be connected to the Schengen Information System (SIS II). This is what the German Ministry of the Interior wrote in its response to a minor enquiry in August this year. At that time, it was said that „no reliable estimate could be made“ of the number of new authorised persons. In a new answer, the Ministry is now becoming more specific. „SIS 3.0: Thousands of new authorities use the Schengen Information System“ weiterlesen

Germany wants EU concept for „persons considered a potential terrorist or violent extremist threat“

In Germany there is no legal definition of „Gefährder“. They are persecuted for acts they have not yet committed. The Federal Government now wants to exchange more data on this group of people throughout the EU.

Actually, the police should prosecute suspects or defendants of a crime. Its tasks also include the prevention of a „concrete danger“, such as that emanating from persons called „troublemakers“ in police jargon. With the „Gefährder“ a third police target group has been sneaking into German law for two decades, as Heiner Busch expressed it in the magazine CILIP. This marked the beginning of a new stage in the shifting of criminal prosecution to the preliminary stage: threats are being prosecuted that have not yet even occurred.

Before the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, football fans or political activists were referred to as „Gefährder“, but now the category is mostly used in connection with terrorism. There is no legal term for it, instead it is a working definition, which the heads of the state criminal investigation offices and the Federal Criminal Police Office vaguely outlined for the first time in 2004. According to this concept, a „Gefährder“ is a person in respect of whom „certain facts justify the assumption that they will commit politically motivated crimes of considerable importance“. „Germany wants EU concept for „persons considered a potential terrorist or violent extremist threat““ weiterlesen

German proposal: Prohibited EU secret service cooperation through the back door

Although this violates EU treaties, the police agency Europol is to cooperate closely with secret services. This involves lists of suspicious persons originating from third countries. The individuals listed there will then be discreetly searched for throughout Europe.

In fact, the European Union has no competence to coordinate the secret services of the Member States. In the case of Germany, this would also violate the principle of separating the tasks of police and services. Nevertheless, the German EU Presidency is now for the first time pushing for operational cooperation coordinated by Europol.

The German proposal for a „coordinated approach“ deals with covert searches for persons under Article 36 of the SIS II Council Decision, which are based on lists of secret services such as the USA, but also from North Africa or the Western Balkans. They are to be entered into the Schengen Information System (SIS II), to which third countries do not have access. Only the 26 EU Member States involved, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland may issue such alerts. „German proposal: Prohibited EU secret service cooperation through the back door“ weiterlesen

Europol Regulation: Towards a „European FBI“?

The police agency of the European Union is to be given more operational powers. A proposal to this effect from the Commission is expected in December, and the German Council Presidency wants to support the initiative with a conference in Berlin.

Normally, the European Union should not create structures that compete with the member states. This also applies to Europol: the police agency in The Hague is to coordinate investigations into cross-border crime and terrorism, but it does not have police powers. Investigations are the sole responsibility of the authorities of the Member States, which are also responsible for wiretapping, house raids and arrests.

For some years now, German politicians from different parties have been pushing for Europol to be expanded into a „European FBI“. This refers to the US agency which, as the federal police force, is responsible for criminal prosecution and intelligence. The German conservative parties even have included the „European FBI“ in their European election manifesto, and the German „police union“ is also open-minded.

„Europol Regulation: Towards a „European FBI“?“ weiterlesen

EU Presidency: Germany advocates „European Police Partnership“

The German Federal Ministry of the Interior wants to expand Europol and the international exchange of data during its EU Presidency. European police authorities will be supported with face recognition and decryption capabilities. Also on the agenda are the Europe-wide query of police files and the exchange on a definition of persons which pose „a potential terrorist/extremist threat“.

On 1 July Germany took over the six-monthly EU Council Presidency, the last time the Federal Government held the Presidency was in the first half of 2007. In the field of Justice and Home Affairs, the programme of the Interior and Justice Ministries is under the motto „A Europe of security and common values“. Germany is focusing on a „European Police Partnership“. The term is vaguely formulated; even when asked, the Ministry of Interior merely states that cross-border cooperation between police authorities is to be „improved“ and achieved by ensuring that „every police officer has access to the necessary information from other Member States“.

What is „necessary“ will therefore be defined by the German Ministry of the Interior in the next six months. The European Union has numerous formats for the exchange of information between police and customs, and its agencies are also involved. The „European Police Partnership“ is not intended to create new instruments, but to expand the existing ones. This includes new legislative procedures. „EU Presidency: Germany advocates „European Police Partnership““ weiterlesen