China: Algorithm law for „positive energy“

The government in Beijing has passed a globally unique regulation for consumer protection on the internet

China installed a new law on Tuesday to rein in algorithms on the internet. The hitherto unique regulation covers applications that make further purchase or reading recommendations to their users based on their behaviour. In future, it will be forbidden to entice customers to excessively spend money or to make them dependent on an internet service. Software-based pricing, if it is to the detriment of consumers, will therefore also be prohibited. After all, operators must prevent fraud and unfair competition, as well as ensure that no false or illegal content is published. The apps should instead „promote positive energy“.

The law affects a wide range of companies, including internet marketplaces such as Alibaba, which has now become a mega-corporation with numerous integrated apps. Delivery service providers must also now revise their technology. The law furthermore addresses the social networks TikTok or Douyin, which are popular among young people and bombard their users with ever new content. „China: Algorithm law for „positive energy““ weiterlesen

„Thin blue line“: German police trainer warns against radicalisation

Police sometimes see themselves as the last „blue line“ against chaos and crime. Various police stations also tweet about this self-image, which is popular among right-wing officers. Websites where police employees  also participate sell patches, mugs and shirts with the problematic symbolism.

Several German police forces published tweets about the so-called „thin blue line“ over Christmas or referred to it in a positive way. The police in Kiel made the start after an action on Christmas Eve. All windows of the middle floor of the three-storey police station near the main railway station were illuminated in dark blue. A photo published on the internet names the night shift as the originator.

The Christmas greeting with the blue line appeared on the private website „Polizist=Mensch“ (translates to „Policeman=Human Being“). After being asked about it on Twitter, the Schleswig-Holstein State Police backed the action. The night shift had wanted to make clear that the police were also available „around the clock for everyone“ during the Christmas holidays. „„Thin blue line“: German police trainer warns against radicalisation“ weiterlesen

Unrestrained killer robots in Geneva

A UN convention on lethal autonomous weapons systems is not in sight

For more than seven years, several dozen states have been discussing a possible ban on autonomous killer robots at the United Nations (UN). So far, the talks have not led to any concrete negotiations; above all, the major military powers – the USA, China, Israel and Russia – are putting on the brakes. It is also unclear how a joint treaty within the framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) could be structured.

Lethal autonomous weapons are systems that pursue a target and – with the help of artificial intelligence, for example – decide on the best time to attack. They can be drones in the air, on land or at sea. Such systems can also identify the people to be killed on the basis of their appearance, stature or biometric data. „Unrestrained killer robots in Geneva“ weiterlesen

German Police: Interventions more than doubled after exchange of passenger data

The EU PNR Directive is leading to more and more interventions by the German authorities. An extension to rail, bus and ship travel is not yet off the table, but before that the Court of Justice in Luxembourg will rule on the legality of the law. Similar agreements with Canada and Japan are apparently no longer coming into being.

The storage and processing of passenger data in air traffic led to significantly more interventions by the German Bundespolizei (Federal Police) last year. According to an annual report that has only just been presented, its headquarters received 25,280 personal data from the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) with a request for so-called follow-up measures. In 2019, this number was still 10,900, according to the report, which results in an increase of around 132 per cent despite a pandemic-related decline in passenger numbers. „German Police: Interventions more than doubled after exchange of passenger data“ weiterlesen

Planned regulation: EU Commission postpones mandatory screening of encrypted chats

Providers of messengers and cloud services will be allowed to voluntarily screen for child abuse content worthy of prosecution, which is to become mandatory across the EU. The Council and Commission are pushing for an extension to other crime areas. Next week, the EU interior ministers will publish a declaration on this.

On 1 December, the European Commission planned to present its proposal for a regulation for „detection, removal and reporting of illegal content online“ in the area of child sexual abuse. It would require providers of messenger services or chat programmes to automatically scan private communications for such material.

But the already delayed bill is now being postponed again. This emerges from a comparison of the Commission’s agendas. The latest version, dated 26 October, no longer includes the legislative proposal. Originally, the Commission wanted to present the EU regulation already in spring. So far, there is no new date. „Planned regulation: EU Commission postpones mandatory screening of encrypted chats“ weiterlesen

Missiles and sensors: German technology for the Turkish drone war

Turkey’s best-selling armed drone is equipped with cameras from German company Hensoldt, a spokesperson confirms. The device could guide missiles developed with German help to a target. The government in Berlin also has a stake in the defence company. Turkey uses the drones for attacks that violate international law.

For almost two decades, companies from the USA and Israel were the undisputed market leaders for armed drones, but now China and Turkey can count more and more exports in their favour. The Turkish „Bayraktar TB2“, which has been used by the government in Ankara since 2016 in the Turkish, Syrian and Iraqi parts of Kurdistan in violation of international law, is particularly attracting attention. In the four-month Operation Olive Branch in Kurdish Rojava alone, the „TB2“ is said to have scored 449 direct hits and enabled fighter planes or helicopters in 680 occasions to do so.

The drone with a payload of 65 kilograms is manufactured by Baykar; its namesake and founder is Selçuk Bayraktar, who is now also the son-in-law of the Turkish president. The „TB2“ has also flown attacks on enemy troops for the Tripoli government in Libya and on behalf of Azerbaijan; it may even have been decisive in the war in Nagorno-Karabakh. After Qatar, Ukraine, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkmenistan, Baykar is to sell the drone as the first NATO country to Poland, interest is also reportedly coming from Lithuania. „Missiles and sensors: German technology for the Turkish drone war“ weiterlesen

Joint exercise in Israel: German Luftwaffe take part in training with armed drones for the first time

Soldiers from four NATO countries have exercised with the Israeli Air Force in the use of „live-fire munitions“ with drones. A German squadron took over the reconnaissance. All drones ordered by the Bundeswehr in Israel are to be delivered this month. The new Bundestag will decide on their armament.

Before the German Air Force has armed drones at its disposal, it needs a corresponding Bundestag decision. Their „Heron TP“ ordered in Israel will therefore remain unarmed for the time being. The Bundeswehr also wanted to refrain from training with an armed version of these long-range drones – provided, for example, by the Israeli trainers – until a positive vote by the members of parliament. This was the assurance given by the Ministry of Defence in its answer to earlier parliamentary questions.

In July, however, German pilots took part in at least one such training on an Israeli firing range. Under the name „Blue Guardian“, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) had for the first time organised a ten-day drone exercise at the Palmachim base south of Tel Aviv. In addition to the Bundeswehr, units from the USA, Great Britain, France and Italy took part. All four countries have combat drones or want to arm them quickly, as in the case of Italy. „Joint exercise in Israel: German Luftwaffe take part in training with armed drones for the first time“ weiterlesen

Undercover operations: UK special court sentences police for sexual relations

In at least 27 cases, British police officers have deceived women and entered into intimate relationships with them in undercover missions. According to a verdict handed down yesterday, the police force in charge also interfered with the physical integrity, privacy and political activities of those involved.

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) in London ruled yesterday on the use of undercover officers against left-wing movements. The Metropolitan Police violated a „formidable list“ of basic human rights. The case was brought by Kate Wilson, a British citizen who alleges sexual abuse and won justice after a ten-year legal battle. „This has been a long and emotional journey, and I am happy to receive this ruling today“, the now 41-year-old activist commented to a campaign group. Her lawyers described the decision as a landmark.

In a separate hearing, the IPT will decide on further remedies, including compensation for the plaintiff and payment of court costs and legal fees. In another court, Wilson and other women had sued for damages because undercover officers entered into relationships with them that lasted up to nine years. The police had publicly apologised for this after pressure from the women concerned, and seven women finally received compensation. „Undercover operations: UK special court sentences police for sexual relations“ weiterlesen

Unmanned surveillance for Fortress Europe

The agencies EMSA and Frontex have spent more than €300 million on drone services since 2016. The Mediterranean in particular is becoming a testing track for further projects.

According to the study „Eurodrones Inc.“ presented by Ben Hayes, Chris Jones and Eric Töpfer for Statewatch seven years ago, the European Commission had already spent over €315 million at that time to investigate the use of drones for border surveillance. These efforts focused on capabilities of member states and their national contact centres for EUROSUR. The border surveillance system, managed by Frontex in Warsaw, became operational in 2014 – initially only in some EU Member States.

The Statewatch study also documented in detail the investments made by the Defence Agency (EDA) in European drone research up to 2014. More than €190 million in funding for drones on land, at sea and in the air has flowed since the EU military agency was founded. 39 projects researched technologies or standards to make the unmanned systems usable for civilian and military purposes. „Unmanned surveillance for Fortress Europe“ weiterlesen

Cryptowars and migration: Great Britain continues to influence EU policy

The British exit from the European Union strengthens cooperation in informal circles. One of these questionable alliances is now launching measures to decrypt secure communications. This also involves the US government.

With Brexit, the UK has left the „European area of Freedom, Security and Justice“. From the EU’s point of view, the Kingdom became a third country, which can still participate in various measures of the Schengen states via a „Trade and Cooperation Agreement“. However, the government no longer has any say at EU level.

Nevertheless, according to a statement by the British Home Office, the country remains part of the „G6 Group“, in which the interior ministers of the six most populous EU member states have organised themselves for 18 years. The agenda of the most recent meeting at the end of March included the prevention of immigration. Home Secretary Priti Patel presented „landmark changes“ to the British asylum system. By „intelligence and expertise“, the Kingdom’s authorities wanted to „tackle illegal migration across the continent“. „Cryptowars and migration: Great Britain continues to influence EU policy“ weiterlesen