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Court rules anti-terror data storage illegal

DPA/The Local · 2 Mar 2010, 18:02

Published: 02 Mar 2010 18:02 GMT+01:00

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The Karlsruhe-based Constitutional Court ruled that the mass storage of private records breaches Germany’s constitution, effectively overturning a law passed in 2008 that compels communications companies to keep tabs on customer phone and internet usage for six months.

The court also demanded that data already stored be deleted ''immediately,'' according to the website of news magazine Der Spiegel.

The ruling is a blow to supporters of tougher measures to fight terrorism and other crimes.

The court has essentially decided the law did not meet the principle of proportionality – that is, the law's erosion of personal privacy outweighed its usefulness in combating terrorism.

The panel of judges ruled that the storage of the data was not sufficiently secure and that the law did not properly define how the information could be used. The judges also criticised the transparency of the law.

Introduced in 2008 under the previous "grand coalition" government, the legislation forced telecommunications firms to store customers' phone, email and internet records, including the location of mobile phone calls, for six months.

The data could then be used for criminal proceedings, including investigations and prosecutions of suspected terrorists.

In Germany's largest class action, some 35,000 people went to the court to fight the law, including the country's current Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, of the pro-business liberal Free Democrats (FDP).

Importantly, the court did not forbid the storage of data altogether but rather criticised the specific legislation. Therefore, it did not challenge the 2006 EU directive that was the basis for the German law.

The law constituted “a particularly heavy intrusion with a scope such as the legal system has not thus far known,” the ruling stated.

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Such legislation had to be subject to very strict terms – a criterion the present law failed to meet, the court said.

Ahead of the ruling, the conservative Christian Democratic parliamentary expert on interior affairs, Wolfgang Bosbach, warned that overturning the law would hamper essential investigations into crimes including child pornography.

“If the law is strictly limited, we will no longer be able to prevent and clear up many crimes,” he said, adding there had been no instances so far where the law had been abused.

DPA/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

13:50 March 2, 2010 by michael4096
Wolfgang Bosbach, warned that overturning the law would hamper essential investigations into crimes including child pornography. "If the law is s…
This is self-contradictory. To collect data for anti-terrorist purposes and use it for anything else, no matter how worthy, is abuse. Only if the law specifically states anti-pedophile or whatever other 'crimes' they are talking about can the data be used.
15:47 March 2, 2010 by Edmond Schindler
Excellent observation Michael! As it were, over the last year that the law was in effect I am curious, according to your statement and clarification, just how many times the data was used for purposes beyond the scope of anti-terrorist definitions. Even Mr. Bosbach inadvertently made reference to using the data for purposes outside the scope of the then in effect law.

So, could it be that the cases utilizing the flawed and falsely collected data under a bait and switch scenario become invalid? And have to be thrown out on technical violations?
18:35 March 2, 2010 by Prufrock2010
The Stasi had no problems with the "legality" of collecting and storing data on everyone. That worked out pretty well, so what's the beef?
19:10 March 2, 2010 by The-ex-pat
Easy solution, store it anyway, then get some one to steal it, then buy it back. Then you can do what you like with it.
19:44 March 2, 2010 by freechoice
help!! Google knows alot about me, which website I visited, what I keywords I have searched, how do I bring a European court case against Google?
06:19 March 3, 2010 by Der Grenadier aus Aachen
Thank God.
11:02 March 3, 2010 by design
The court should rule to change those horrible judge outfits
16:39 March 3, 2010 by michael4096
So, could it be that the cases utilizing the flawed and falsely collected data under a bait and switch scenario become invalid? And have to be thrown …
So, could it? I'm curious
17:50 March 5, 2010 by tlwinslow
The only law Germany needs is one authorizing Muslim Ideological Profiling (MIP) to screen all Muslims in or trying to enter the country for signs of radicalization. Only Muslims strap bombs to their bodies and set them off in exchange for Allah's promise of paradise, so keeping data on non-Muslims is counterproductive. Study Islam's history with the Historyscoper and see why this will work at http://go.to/islamhistory
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