EU: "Data lakes", broken silos, changing the law: Counter-Terrorism Coordinator enthusiastic for Europol's new 'innovation hub'

The EU is in the process of setting up an 'innovation hub' at Europol in order to look at the development and use of new technologies for internal security. The Counter-Terrorism Coordinator (CTC), who initially proposed the idea, has circulated an enthuastic note to national delegations in Brussels setting out his vision for the unit. Meanwhile, minutes of a meeting between EU and Interpol officials suggest that Frontex operations could provide a "test lab" for new technologies.

NOTE from: EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator to: Delegations: Embracing new and disruptive technologies in internal security and justice with an EU Innovation Hub (6158/20, 19 February 2020, LIMITE, pdf)

OUTCOME OF PROCEEDINGS: JHA Senior Officials meeting EU - OIPC Interpol (15070/19, 13 February 2020, LIMITE, pdf)

According to the CTC note, the 'hub' would have five primary tasks - the most notable perhaps being changing the law to suit the operational needs of law enforcement agencies and new technologies (emphasis added in all quotes):

"i) initiating joint pilot projects in accordance with a ‘DARPA’-type methodology; ii) evaluating the risks and opportunities presented by new technologies; iii) optimizing data use for operational needs; iv) de-conflicting laws with operational requirements; and v) reflecting on necessary personnel and methodology transformations."

The CTC also advocates for the creation of a shared "data lake" for "training artifical intelligence tools":

"In particular, the Hub would analyse how a shared data lake could be created together with the support of entities in charge of privacy and data protection (EDPS and European Data Protection Board, FRA, DG JUST, etc.) within the existing legal framework. This data lake would seek to truly pool disparate data in a single entity for analytics as well as training artificial intelligence tools (e.g. to test the potential for detecting radicalisation tipping-points). Such infrastructure, coupled with an ability to deal with data of various origins, would bring real added value to the development of software tools. It would need preliminary work as well as sufficient budget."

Amongst other things, the document returns to consider how data protection and privacy rights might be reformed in order to suit the needs of law enforcement agencies:

"Since security, privacy, data protection, safety and transparency of algorithms may be conflicting norms, the Hub could offer a de-confliction mechanism for dealing with operational cases. Concretely, the Hub could offer practitioners and scientists the opportunity to work together with actors such as DG JUST, the EDPS or FRA in order to develop legal solutions to operational requirements which might conflict with existing legislation. The Hub would nurture creative solutions within the existing legal framework as well as reflect on possible changes."

Frontex as a "test lab"

According to the minutes of a recent meeting between senior EU justice and home affairs officials and Interpol, EU officials "confirmed the need to align approaches and capabilities" being developed at Europol with similar efforts undertaken by Interpol's Innovation Centre in Singapore.

At the meeting, Interpol officials gave a presentation that "highlighted a number of areas where more synergies and cooperation could be explored, e.g. AI, drones, innovation officers exchange, WG on Darknet and Cryptocurrencies (Europol participates)."

The minutes also state that: "The role of Frontex as a test lab in deploying technical solutions on the ground was also highlighted."

NOTE from: EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator to: Delegations: Embracing new and disruptive technologies in internal security and justice with an EU Innovation Hub (6158/20, 19 February 2020, LIMITE, pdf)

OUTCOME OF PROCEEDINGS: JHA Senior Officials meeting EU - OIPC Interpol (15070/19, 13 February 2020, LIMITE, pdf)

 

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