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EU spending over $400m on secret drone project – Civil rights group

surveillance drone

RT | February 12, 2014

The EU is investing hundreds of millions of taxpayer euros in the development of surveillance drones without political oversight, a report claims. The authors of the document warn the EU is secretly encouraging “the further militarization” of the region.

A report entitled ‘Eurodrones Inc.’ published by rights group Statewatch describes how the EU is channeling taxpayers’ money into surveillance drone projects without their knowledge.

“More than 315 million euro ($430 million) has so far been spent in EU research funding on drone technology or drones geared towards a specific purpose such as policing or border control,” writes the report.

However, the document points out that the research funding is largely “invisible” to the people and parliaments of Europe and lacks the proper political oversight. According to the report this was achieved by a secret budget line that was included in new EU legislation on air traffic control for this year.

The report describes a 20-year roadmap that aims to introduce surveillance drones into EU airspace and highlights that this plan is being shaped by “thinly accountable officials” and representatives of large corporations.

“The EU’s emerging drone policy has come about following years of successful lobbying by defense and security companies and their associates,” said co-author of the report Chris Jones in a statement on Statewatch’s website, adding that these are the same defense and security contractors that have the most to gain.

The drones in question would engage in civilian surveillance activities, such as border patrols and the search for criminals. However, Statewatch is concerned that the convert nature of the program lends itself to the “further militarization” of the European Union.

Calling for “proper democratization” and the opening of public debate on the issue, the report notes the EU turned a blind eye to a European Commission statement in 2012 that declared the development of unmanned surveillance craft should be more transparent.

It recommended the issue be discussed with a number of organizations, including the European Group on Ethics, the LIBE Committee of the European Parliament or the European Agency for Fundamental Rights and Data Protection Supervisor.

“Yet none of these bodies have been involved,” writes the report. “Their absence from policy debates means that many of the conversations the EU should be having about drones – such as what they should and should not be used for, and how to prevent further militarization and the deployment of fully autonomous weaponized drones – have been all but ignored.”

Although the authors of the report do not outwardly criticize research into drones, they do stress the fact that the current program is too “heavily skewed toward the interests of the big defense contractors.”

They argue that this could lead to “unwarranted state surveillance and repression,” as well as enhanced prospects for combat drone research for a global arms race.

“It’s easy to see why people are so excited about drones: there are many positive things they could be used for,” said co-author Ben Hayes. He concluded that given the “clear implications” for civil liberties in the balance, the EU has a “moral and legal obligation” to uphold fundamental rights and the rule of law.

February 12, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

EU police want ‘remote kill switch’ on every car

RT | January 30, 2014

The EU is considering making mandatory the equipping of all cars sold in the union with devices, which would allow police to remotely disable engines, according to leaked documents.

If the plan goes as planned, European law enforcers will be able to stop fugitives, suspected criminals and even speeding drivers with a simple radio command from a control room.

The technology is part of a six-year development plan by the ‘European Network of Law Enforcement Technologies’, or Enlets, a working group for police cooperation across the EU, reports the Telegraph.

“Cars on the run can be dangerous for citizens,” the newspaper cites a document leaked by state power watchdog Statewatch.

“Criminal offenders will take risks to escape after a crime. In most cases the police are unable to chase the criminal due to a lack of efficient means to stop the vehicle safely,” it says.

Remote control of car electronics is far from novel. A modern car is equipped with a network of microcomputers, which monitors and controls everything from ignition and flow of fuel to radio station being played. And increasingly cars can communicate wirelessly, a technology called telematics.

Loan firms and car dealerships have been using the benefits of electronically-controlled cars for years. A vehicle sold in the subprime market can be equipped with a black box, which reminds the client of overdue payments with honking horns and flashing lights and would disable the engine completely a few days later, unless the money is paid. And a GPS receiver would tell the dealership the exact location where the car can be collected.

Remote tracking and control is also used as anti-theft measure. Services like General Motors’ Stolen Vehicle Slowdown can force a stolen car to drop speed and stop on a remote command from the service provider.

Giving police the ability to do the same to any car in the EU does not thrill some rights advocates cautious of giving the government more authority.

“We need to know if there is any evidence that this is a widespread problem. Let’s have some evidence that this is a problem, and then let’s have some guidelines on how this would be used,” Statewatch told the Telegraph.

Apart from that, there is a concern of possible hacker attacks, which could use the remote kill switch for nefarious ends. In March 2010 Texas police arrested a former car dealership employee, who used its car tracking and repossession system to disable some 100 vehicles in Austin in revenge for being laid-off.

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego and Washington University tested how much harm hacking can do to a car’s electronic controller. The study conducted in 2010 showed that a criminal can relatively easily interfere with safety-critical systems like brakes.

The security of connected cars has not become hacker-proof since. At the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show this month, technology firm Harman warned that hacking problems for modern cars are very serious because the infrastructure of their electronic components was not designed with networking in mind, so they are not ready for the level of exposure to cyber-attacks that internet connectivity brings.

January 30, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , , , , | Leave a comment