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Central Unit for Random Internet Searches (ZaRD)

In the autumn of 1998, the Conference of Interior Ministers entrusted the BKA with carrying out central random searches in data networks. A "Central Unit for Random Internet Searches „ (German abbreviation : ZaRD) was subsequently set up in January 1999.

The mandate

Random searches in data networks, as conducted by the Central Unit for Random Internet Searches, incorporate the
"... continuous and systematic searches involving more than one area of crime, not performed in response to an external impetus, with a view to checking the Internet and online services for contents punishable under criminal law as well as the prosecution of penally relevant contents discovered through such searches, including seizure of evidence and identification of responsible offenders and/or the local police or judicial authorities in charge".

Incident-related searches differ in that they are triggered by concrete information and reports, in response to requests made by other authorities or as investigation-linked measures.

The following points are the fundamental elements in the handling of tasks at the Central Unit for Random Internet Searches:

  • continuous and systematic random searches involving more than one area of crime in data networks, particularly on the Internet, for content punishable under criminal law
  • (preliminary) checks in respect of criminal relevance
  • collection, recovery and documentation of evidence (in urgent cases)
  • further prosecution of offences until the question of jurisdiction has been determined and referral of the facts established to the services in charge
  • information exchange and task-related co-operation with other public and private services and facilities
  • preparation of situation reports
  • public relations work - both internal and external
  • involvement in basic and advanced training measures

The legal bases

The Bundeskriminalamt carries out random searches in data networks on the basis of section 2 (2) no. 1 in connection with section 2 (1) of the BKA Law:

The methods

The Central Unit for Random Internet Checks endeavours to reach all public areas of the Internet as well as the major online services

The searches focus particularly on the following types of Internet service:

  • Internet Relay Chat (IRC)
  • World Wide Web (WWW),
  • Usenet (Newsgroups) and
  • File Transfer Protocol (FTP)

as well as the increasingly popular filesharing services and applications such as "KaZaA".

With now well over one billion websites in WWW, over 80,000 different newsgroups and approx. 25,000 different chat channels in the IRC, the question naturally arises with regard to the actual practical aspect of random checks. The entering of an incriminated term in the search window of one of the established search engines is not a reliable method, as a rule.

Although the dissemination of child pornography still remains the most striking offence on the Internet, the Central Unit for Random Internet Checks tries not to lose sight of other crime phenomena and also conducts regular checks into other crime areas.

The collection of evidence

The provisions laid down under the Telecommunications Act as well as the Code of Criminal Procedure are used for the collection of customer and connection data held by the service providers.

Pursuant to section 113 (1) of the Telecommunications Act (new version), the service providers as telecommunication service performers, are obliged to release customer data when requested to do so by the law enforcement authorities. Customer data is person-related data which the service provider has collected from his customer for the creation, content structure or amendment of a contractual relationship. In this way, stored data such as name, address, date of birth, bank details of a customer can be collected who has registered for the use of services offered by the service provider.

Since 01 January 2002, the basis for the collection of telecommunication call data is provided by sections 100 g, h of the Code of Criminal Procedure, newly-anchored in the Code as follow-up norm for section 12 FAG which ceased to exist at the end of 2001. A "harmonisation” of the new regulations with those of sections 100 a et seq. of the Code of Criminal Procedure was the declared goal of the legislature. Thus sections 100 g, h of the Code of Criminal Procedure (in contrast to section 12 FAG) also expressly permit the collection of telecommunication call data occurring in the future.

The results

In 2005, the Central Unit for Random Internet Checks handled 425 suspicious cases within the framework of random and incident-related checks in data networks. In 340 cases, due to the existence of sufficient initial suspicion, reports were filed and referred to the competent police services in Germany and abroad. As was the case in previous years, the focus lay in two-thirds of all the suspicious cases on the dissemination of pornographic image and video files of children

Given the global nature of the Internet and the fact that the Central Unit for Random Internet Checks reports all criminally relevant material irrespective of geographic boundaries, a large proportion of suspicious cases often relate to foreign countries. In 2005 this constituted approx. 64 % of all cases. In 36 % of the cases, Germans or Internet users from German-speaking countries were affected by the reports.

The perspectives

The use of the Internet for criminal purposes is a phenomenon which continues to be of great importance from a police point of view. Perpetrators operating on the net are becoming increasingly professional. Publicly accessible anonymization services considerably favour the wish for concealment and secrecy. Thus, the efficient prosecution of Internet perpetrators is also becoming more and more difficult and the Central Unit for Random Internet Checks is constantly being faced with new challenges.

The ongoing trend towards the global dissemination of digital information from user to user (Peer to Peer), without the involvement of central servers, possibly anonymized or even encrypted, is creating the scenario of the years ahead. Challenges which the police alone cannot meet. Internet users have a democratically assured right to data protection and informational self-determination. But also the victim of an offence committed on the Internet should have the right to protection and the prosecution of the perpetrators.

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© Bundeskriminalamt - 2016