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  • The Databases of Germany’s Federal Criminal Police

    Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt – BKA) is operating morethan 200 “files“ (which are in fact databases) with more than 18 million entries on persons.This was reported by the Federal Government in response to a parliamentary request of theLeft Party on 25 June this year. The listed files fall into three categories: Firstly, the so-called“joint files” (Verbunddateien) which are run by the BKA but also automatically fed with databy the 16 German state police forces, the Federal Police, the Customs Service and its criminalinvestigation branch. Data stored in these databases are widely accessible through the GermanPolice Information System INPOL. Secondly, the so-called “central files” (Zentraldateien)which BKA officers feed with data that are provided in conventional ways by the above listedsecurity agencies plus the secret services. However, they might be opened for online retrievalof information for other authorities on an occasional basis. The third category are the socalled“office files” (Amtsdateien) which are operated and accessed exclusively by the BKAitself.

    Office files make up the majority of the files held by the BKA. The largest number ofentries stored in such files is “only” around 30,000. Usually office files are set up for purposesof criminal investigation, and they are deleted when the investigated case is closed – thoughdata might be transferred to other files. In contrast, the major files of the BKA are those usedfor purposes of identification, search for wanted objects and persons, the indexing of existingelectronic and paper records, and the analysis of “areas” of crime such as drugs or humantrafficking (see table). Though these are separate files, many of them are cross-referenced byunique identifiers such as the “D-number” which points from Automated Finger PrintIdentification Systems (AFIS), working simply on pseudonymous hit/no-hit basis, to files ofthe identification service which hold the individual background information. As such thelarger BKA files are cornerstones of the mosaic of the European police informationlandscape: AFIS-P and the DNA database are networked with their counterparts in othercountries through the mechanisms of the Prüm Treaty, the search files for objects and personsare pools from which the BKA’S SIRENE officers feed the Schengen Information System,AFIS-A contains, among others, the German contribution to the EURODAC database, and themajor files on human trafficking or money laundering are likely to ease Europol’s appetite forinformation to be harvested through its analysis work files.
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