EU: Here we go again! EU seeks to "balance" privacy and rights against the demands of law enforcement agencies

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Here we go again! EU seeks to "balance" privacy and rights against the demands of law enforcement agencies

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Here we go again! In the aftermath of 11 September 2001 in each new measure we were told that they had "balanced" fundamental rights and the demands of EU security. In practice the latter almost always won the day.

The emergence of new technologies presents a whole new era of demands which are the subject of a Note from the Council Presidency: The future direction of EU internal security: new technologies and internal security - Preparation of the Council debate (LIMITE doc no: 12224-19, pdf).

The conflicting demands are:

"The introduction and increased use of new technologies unquestionably poses a threat to the legitimate needs of the law enforcement sector. (...)

Therefore, it is important to identify the relevant threats, challenges and opportunities that come with the new technological measures, as well as to find a balance between efficient criminal investigations on the one hand and the protection of fundamental rights and data protection on the other." [emphasis added throughout]

5G mobile networks

"5G is likely to complicate lawful interception for law enforcement, criminal investigations and justice. Due to the high security standards of 5G, and a fragmented and virtualised architecture, law enforcement and judicial authorities may lose visibility on valuable data, such as the content of communications or identification of users, including the location of devices, or this access could be seriously hindered. Similarly, the integrity of data and its admissibility in court proceedings may be compromised.."

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

"AI and robotics have the potential to transform law enforcement by enhancing its efficiency and responsiveness in several different ways. AI may acquire and analyse large amounts of information gathered from a multitude of data sources, devices (cf. Internet of Things below), tools and applications, which would not be possible via human intervention only. AI may save substantial resources for law enforcement by enabling automation in many different areas.

The availability and use of AI-backed technological tools is likely to become indispensable for law enforcement, but there are serious legal, ethical and technological constraints to be taken into account."

Internet of things

"For law enforcement, the Internet of Things presents specific investigative challenges due to the diversity of hardware, software and communication standards and connectivity protocols being used. Some of the relevant data may be located in the Cloud, which will frequently require cross-border cooperation and legal assistance."

The combining of of relevant evidence "ie: digital forensics" will routinely become a "Big Data problem".

Drones and UAVs

"The drones of tomorrow will be smaller and quieter, but also more powerful, as they will be able to fly further and carry larger loads thanks to lighter and more efficient batteries, increased data storage and computing capacity, smarter software and the introduction of 5G. (...)

the technical development of drones is providing a new set of tools for law enforcement. Police forces and other government authorities currently use drones in different ways and the use of them is growing."

Anonymisation and encryption

"It is important to find the balance between, on the one hand, public order, internal security and providing law enforcement with access to encrypted networks and, on the other hand, the protection of fundamental rights, such as privacy and confidentiality of communications, while also taking into account the principles of necessity and proportionality."

Main areas of internal security architecture influenced by new technologies

"Amongst them, operational policing and cross-border police cooperation holds a prominent place: the exchange of data will be heavily influenced by increased automation and the ever-growing demand for interoperability and standardisation of data and technologies."


"The possibility to analyse and process large amounts of data will offer opportunities for ‘predictive policing’. Better reliability of facial recognition, automatic number plate recognition and similar applications will significantly enhance the capabilities of law enforcement."

"From a technical point of view, lawful interception of mobile communications and other relevant data will constitute another major challenge (...)

[the need] verify the credibility of the results proposed and to ensure the overall accountability and lawfulness of such algorithms."

In an earlier document the EU Counter Terrorism Coordinator noted that a whole new world was opening up which goes well beyond the the creation of centralised EU databases - they are simply the start of a new era of surveillance and control:

"Creating a shared data lake for the agencies in which the data would be reliable, monitored and used to train AI tools. This would go beyond interoperability of the existing databases."

See: Statewatch Analysis: A world without wiretapping? Official documents highlight concern over effects 5G technology will have on "lawful interception" (pdf)

And: EU plans for Artificial Intelligence (AI): Get ready to meet your friendly "digital assistant"

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