Armin Medosch on Tue, 1 Dec 1998 18:15:48 +0100 (CET)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> enfopol 98

The European Secret Service Union
A summary of the reports on the ENFOPOL papers
Armin Medosch

After reporting exclusively in a series of stories by our
correspondents Erich Moechel and Christiane Schulzki-Haddouti about the
far-reaching eavesdropping plans by the European Union, Telepolis has now
made the first ENFOPOL paper public on its website. The following article
is a summary of the reports and analysis written by

ENFOPOL surveillance plans target any form of telecommunications - be it
data, encrypted or in clear form, mobile telephony, the new Iridium system
and other satelite mobile phone services that may follow. If these plans
can be implemented, ENFOPOL will be able to monitor almost every
communications mode, leaving no gaps. In order to avoid legal problems if
target subjects are moving quickly from one country to the other and also
for the sake of security of the wiretapped data ENFOPOL is aiming at the
central terrestrial masterstation of Iridium in Italy as an ideal spot to
monitor telecommunications traffic. But also large clearing houses which
handle international phone call billing for the big national operators are
mentioned as potential sources for the kind of information European police
forces are interested in.

Iridium has thus far not given any significant statement, apart from
saying that they would abide to any law in the countries in which they
operate. A spokesperson of a large international clearing house, however,
strictly ruled out that his company would pass on any such data. Telepolis
was also told that they had not been approached yet with any request of
that kind.

It is important to note that, at the moment, ENFOPOL is not a reality
(unlike ECHELON), but merely a proposal drawn up by a working group for
police collaboration. But at the same time, ENFOPOL is not an isolated
concept completely detached from reality. Many of the statements, the
listed requirements and even the language used resemble legal draft papers
and bills recently made public or already put to work in countries like
Germany and Austria. In both countries, the original bills which had asked
for Internet service providers (ISPs) to give security forces back door
access to customer information had to be watered down after an outcry in
public, mainly organized by lobby groups of ISPs and telco operators. The
similarity of the ENFOPOL proposals and these surveillance bills in Austria
and Germany tell us that key employees within European police forces are
trying to pull the net more closely together to create a harmonization of
European surveillance laws.

Supporting these observations, a recent story in the London-based newspaper
Sunday Times claimed that the formation of a joint European intelligence
agency is being considered by several European politicians. A German
politician was quoted, saying that the German government favoured a closer
political union and that a new secret services agency was naturally an
achievement. At the same time, German Minister of Foreign Affairs Joschka
Fischer said that, in his opinion, Europe was heading towards political
union with a joint foreign policy.

But the EU is not alone in its efforts. A debate in the European Parliament
in September revealed plans between the EU and the FBI to co-operate on
building a global surveillance system for telecommunications. The ENFOPOL
proposal clearly has to be seen in this context. If it became legal
reality, it would not only give police forces any surveillance power they
wish, it would also legitimize existing systems like ECHELON.

Police statements often refer to the danger of lagging behind while
organized crime and terrorism is exploiting
high-technology and when national borders are opening up. But their own
declared goals are not served better when at the same time all privacy
rights are taken away from individuals. Furthermore, the way in which all
this is done suggests a mental regress into "big brother" thinking.
Politicians and civil servants are making top-down decisions, far away from
the public. A democratic debate has barely taken place so far. And for
someone not directly involved with such subject matters it might seem as if
all this has nothing to do with their life anyway. Governments have done
their best so far to keep ENFOPOL out of the spotlight. And the technical
matters involved are equally abstract to most people in the world. This is
the world of big telco operators, backbone providers, satellite providers
and clearinghouses - companies which mostly work for other firms and
therefore rarely are household names for the average internet user.

The requirements  of ENFOPOL for wiretapping telecommunications can surely
not be fulfilled without heavy technical changes in the systems currently
in operation commercially. We would not imply that any of these commercial
operators would willingly or illegally trespass on their customer's privacy
rights. But once such trespassing is part of the Transeuropean legal
system, we can also not be too certain that these companies would step
forward as advocates of citizen's rights. They don't seem to have a record
for such a campaign spirit unless it is linked with business interest.
(German ISPs, for example, mainly protested against the TKÜV because costs
should be imposed on them.)

It seems that the best opportunity for lifting the veil of secrecy is to
finally launch the public debate that has been missing so far. This is why
we have chosen to make the original ENFOPOL paper from 3rd of September
accessible on this website. The site will also be updated in the future
with other more recent ENFOPOL papers.

ENFOPOL 98, 3rd of September 1998 (in German)

ENFOPOL-Special in Telepolis
Telepolis - Magazine of NetCulture
Office London: 52B Andrews RD, London E8 4RL
Phone: +44 171 923 88 30 Fax: +44 171 923 88 31

#  distributed via nettime-l : no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a closed moderated mailinglist for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  URL:  contact: