European Union Using ‘Big Brother’ Technology to Scour Web for ‘Abnormal Behaviour’

September 21, 2009

(ChattahBox)—Human rights groups are alarmed over a new program operated by the European Union to develop computer programs to monitor information from the Internet throughout Europe, to detect signs of threats or potential violence. The program is called, Project Indect and is intended as an expansion and coordination of EU law enforcement agencies, to fight crime and terrorism across boundaries on a larger scale.

Project Indect is a five-year research program, which received about £10 million from the EU to make use of computer technology to detect threats, at a time when budgets and human resources are shrinking. The project, includes the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), computer scientists at York University and law enforcement officials from nine other European countries.

Future plans call for a possible expansion to local police usage of the technology across the EU, as the trend in law enforcement in Europe is one of “common culture” and sharing intelligence.

According to Project Indect’s Web site, the program’s goal is to:

“to develop a platform for the registration and exchange of operational data, acquisition of multimedia content, intelligent processing of all information and automatic detection of threats and recognition of abnormal behaviour or violence”.

The project describes computer agents, which would continuously monitor, web sites, discussion forums, usenet groups, file servers, peer-to-peer networks, and even individual computer systems.

There is the additional fear, among human rights groups, that the new global outlook on crime detection could empower a EU secret service agency, such as the EU Joint Situation Center (SitCen), which would expose greater numbers of people to continuous computer surveillance, raising privacy issues.

Shami Chakrabarti, the director of the human rights group Liberty, called the mass surveillance activities of Project Indect, a “sinister step” and “positively chilling” on a European scale.

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