GERMANY: States and corporations from Europe and beyond gather to discuss "police in social networks", "ePolice" and "equipment and armament"

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14.02.13 - Next week the 16th European Police Congress will be held in Berlin, where representatives of internal security authorities and corporations from Europe and beyond will gather for a programme of events focused largely on policing the internet, where the world of "digital romantics", "moral hackers" and "cyber kiddies" has "turned into operative and organised crime," according to the event's organisers. [1]

"The internet has created a second universe of binds and relationships," says the website of the Congress. "In here, law enforcement meets its own borders: local responsibilities cannot cope with the boundless space. Therefore police and other law enforcement authorities have to adopt into the digital world. But even this adoption meets its borders."

The Congress is therefore aiming to break down some of the borders between law enforcement agencies and companies, seeking to "strengthen the dialogue between the authorities and enable the participants to establish new contacts to colleagues all over the world."

Alongside discussions on the internet and social media, some more traditional police interests will be catered for - the brochure for the event notes the inclusion of "equipment and armament". Photos from last year's event show guns, gas masks and drones on display to attendees. [2]

The event regularly attracts the attention of protestors, who this year will gather to express their opposition an event they say is concerned with "the complete penetration of private life with state surveillance mania." [3] Previous demonstrations against the event have seen confrontations break out between police and protesters.

Last year's conference on the topic of "Networked Security: Terrorism" attracted around 1,500 participants from 24 countries. Although the majority of those attending were from Germany, 28% came from other EU states and 11% came from non-EU states. They included representatives of the European Gendarmerie Force, a parliamentary organisation operated by nine countries include France, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain. [4]

At this year's Congress Troels Oerting, the head of Europol's recently-launched European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) will give a presentation on "criminal prosecution in the internet with a focus on social networks." Other events include a lecture on "activities of European police forces in social networks" and a "high-level debate" amongst high-ranking German police officers, a former director of Europol and a representative of the UK policing college on "police and social networks."

A series of panels will examine a number of issues including "ePolice: prevention and prosecution in social networks", "organised crime in the internet", digital forensics" and "propaganda and recruiting in the field of terrorism and extremism in the internet".

The interest of police forces in online activity is reflected in a 2012 report from Europol. "Besides the continuing threat of financially motivated cybercrime, 2011 has clearly been the year of 'hacktivism'," said the agency, noting that it was working on an assessment of "the nature and the impact of 'Anonymous' and related attacks in Europe", as well as researching Stuxnet, Lulzsec, denial of service attacks and "the evolution of the 'Bitcoin' virtual payment system and criminal misuse of the 'TOR' anonymising network." [5]

The potential uses by the authorities of information available from the internet was made clear earlier this week in a report from The Guardian. The newspaper revealed that the multinational arms company Raytheon has been developing "software capable of tracking people's movement and predicting future behaviour by mining data from social networking websites." The project has apparently "attracted interest from intelligence and national security agencies, at the same time prompting civil liberties and online privacy concerns." [6]

The European Police Congress welcomes the participation of other "internal security" authorities aside from the police. Last year Gil Arias, the Deputy Executive Director of Frontex, gave a presentation outlining the border agency's "latest developments, competences and possibilities." [7]

The event will also see marketing exhibitions by some of the biggest names in the security, defence and computing industries, including Cassidian, CapGemini, IBM, Oracle, Panasonic, Siemens and Taser, who will be there to demonstrate "the latest developments in technologies for the professional use in the security sector." [8]

[1] European Police Congress, Topics 2013
[2] 16th European Police Congress, Information for participant; Theo Schneider, 15th European Police Congress begins in Berlin, 14 February 2012
[3] European Police Congress in Berlin
[4] Tim Schumacher,
“The law will bring peace” - a view on the European Gendarmerie Force (EGF), Statewatch Journal, vol 20 no 3/4, July-December 2010
[5] Europol, Europol Review 2011, p.41
[6] Ryan Gallagher, Software that tracks people on social media created by defence firm, The Guardian, 10 February 2013
[7] Gil Arias, FRONTEX: Latest developments, competences & possibilities, February 2012
[8] European Police Congress, About the Conference

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