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Police increasingly in need of foreign co-op to solve cyber crimes

The Finnish police regularly request information from giant internet companies like Facebook and Google to aid in their caseload. Handling a legal aid request can take months.

Facebookin tietokonepalvelinkeskus Luulajassa, Ruotsissa.
A Facebook server centre in Luleå, Sweden. Image: Susanne Lindholm / EPA

Crucial insights into solving criminal cases in Finland increasingly involve going beyond the country's borders – specifically requesting information from foreign-owned internet companies.

"Suspects use technological equipment to communicate, and the information we can acquire through such devices is crucially important to us," says lawyer Karl Linderborg from the cyber crime section of the National Bureau of Investigation.

Large internet companies such as Facebook and Google divulge some information voluntarily to Finnish law enforcement. This data includes the identities of users logging into email accounts and when the accounts have been accessed.

Reply rate 76 percent

A working group under the supervision of the European Council was tasked to find out how many direct requests for information Apple, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Microsoft and Yahoo received from countries that have agreed to the EU Convention on Cybercrime.

The number of requests is constantly rising. In 2015 there were more than 138,000 whereas a year previously there were just over 100,000.

The United States alone made some 90,000 information retrieval requests in 2015.

The study shows that in 2015 Finnish officials requested information from these six US-based companies 227 times. Some form of reply was received to 76 percent of the requests.

Of all European countries the UK and Germany made the most requests.

Replies are not always forthcoming because companies have various conditions attached to handing over information the Finnish police. Accounts of people from the EU, EFTA and ETA are fair game.

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