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EU eyes Israeli technologies for spotting terrorists online

At conference in Tel Aviv, EU Counterterrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove says Israeli companies could help the states sift through massive databases to detect lone-wolf terrorists • He warns that new means could put EU privacy laws to the test.


European governments are looking to Israeli technology to develop better means for spotting lone-wolf terrorists based on their online activity, a senior EU security official said on Tuesday. Last week’s truck rampage in Nice, France, and Monday’s ax attack aboard a train in Bavaria, Germany, have raised concern about self-radicalized assailants who have little or no communication with terrorists groups that could be intercepted by spy agencies.

“How do you capture some signs of someone who has no contact with any organization, is just inspired and started expressing some kind of allegiance? I don’t know. It’s a challenge,” EU Counterterrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove said this week at the 2nd Intelligence and Special Forces Conference in Tel Aviv.

Internet companies have been reluctant to monitor their own platforms’ content for material that might flag terrorists, De Kerchove said. He said they had argued that the information was too massive to sift through and put into context, unlike child pornography, for which there were automatic detectors.

“So maybe a human’s intervention is needed. So you cannot just let the machine do it,” De Kerchove said, adding he hoped “we will soon find ways to be much more automated” in sifting through social networks.

“That is why I am here,” he said of his visit to Israel. “We know Israel has developed a lot of capability in cyber.”

Israeli security agencies once focussed on meta data, or information regarding militants’ communications patterns. Now, beset by Palestinian street attacks, often by young assailants using rudimentary weapons and without links to armed factions, they have refocused on social media as a complementary means of gaining advance warnings from private posts.

An Israeli military official who administers these methods said human intervention is required to set parameters such as age, religiosity, socio-economic background or links to known terrorists for the population being


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