Big data analysis "essential" to modern crime fighting: police

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In a Round Table discussion yesterday the police and the Public Prosecutor discussed the value of telecommunications data for the detection of serious crime with the Second Chamber. According to a statement on the police's website, they find it essential that telecom and internet providers keep certain communication data for a certain period of time - the so called data retention.

This involves the so called name - address - residence data of telephone numbers and IP addresses. This data shows, for example, what number called or texted another number and where. For IP addresses only the log on- and log off data is involved.

According to the police, all sorts of crime would hardly exist without the internet. These involve cyber-crimes like DDOS attacks, the spread of malware and viruses and child pornography. In these cases an IP address is often the main (and sometimes the only) clue to the identification of the perpetrators. According to the police, user and internet traffic data is therefore "absolutely indispensable" for criminal investigations.

The statement reads that other investigations will "undoubtedly" cost more time and manpower if the data retention is limited, especially if a phone number or IP address is the only clue. It would also force the police and judiciary to use much heavier detection means to compensate for the missing data, such as observation and line tapping. The police state that this will lead to a greater invasion of privacy and will not provide a solution in all cases.

"Police and Justice are well aware that data retention violates the privacy of citizens. If other alternatives were available we would definitely choose them, but there are really no alternatives." the police states on their website. "Privacy interests must be weighed against the importance of a safe society."

The police and judiciary also explicitly refers to the "persistent misconception" that the data of all citizens are centrally stored for further analysis. According to the police, providers store the data in their own databases. This is done according to national regulations, which the Telecom Agency supervises. "Investigating authorities can therefore definitely not randomly and at will extract and analyze data. There must always be the suspicion of a serious crime."

According to the police, they also first weigh the tradeoff between privacy violation and the importance of detection. The police and Prosecution annually request telecom data tens of thousands of time. The police states that the image that they thereby unreasonably infringe on the privacy of citizens is therefore entirely misplaced. "The retrieval of such data is done solely because it often leads to a result, reduces crime and thus promotes the safety of citizens."