• Germany's news in English

Court rules anti-terror data storage illegal

DPA/The Local · 2 Mar 2010, 18:02

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

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

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.

Story continues below…

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)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

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
Today's headlines
Outrage over ruling on 'brutal' gang rape of teen girl
The now convicted suspects, sitting in court in Hamburg. Photo: DPA.

A 14-year-old girl was gang-raped and left partially clothed and unconscious in freezing temperatures. Now prosecutors are appealing the sentences for the young men found guilty, most of whom will not set foot in jail.

Dozens of Turkish diplomats apply for asylum in Germany
Demonstrators holding a giant Turkish flag protest against the attempted coup in Istanbul in July. Photo: DPA.

Since the failed putsch attempt in Turkey in July, Germany has received 35 asylum applications from people with Turkish diplomatic passports, the Interior Ministry confirmed on Wednesday.

Hertha Berlin fan club criticised for 'anti-gay banner'
Hertha BSC beat FC Cologne 2-1. Photo: DPA

A 50 metre fan banner apparently mocking the idea of gay adoption has overshadowed Hertha BSC's win in the Bundesliga.

Germany stalls Chinese takeover of tech firm Aixtron
Aixtron headquarters in Herzogenrath. Photo: DPA

The German government on Monday said it had withdrawn approval for a Chinese firm to acquire Aixtron, a supplier to the semiconductor industry, amid growing unease over Chinese investment in German companies.

Politicians call for tough sentences for 'killer clowns'
File photo: DPA.

Now that the so-called 'killer clown' craze has spread from the US to Germany, elected officials are drawing a hard line against such "pranks", with some threatening offenders with jail time of up to a year.

Nearly one in ten Germans are severely disabled
Photo: DPA

New figures reveal that 9.3 percent of the German population last year were considered severely disabled.

The Local List
Germany's top 10 most surreal sites to visit
The Upside-Down House, in Mecklenburg–Western Pomerania. Photo: Olaf Meister / Wikimedia Commons

From upside-down houses on Baltic islands to a fairy-tale castle near the Austrian border, Germany is a treasure trove of the extraordinary.

Bavarian critics back Merkel for Chancellor again
Photo: DPA

The Christian Social Union (CSU) have long delayed backing Angela Merkel as their candidate for Chancellor in next year's general election. But now key leaders are supporting her publicly.

Four taken to hospital after hotel toilet bursts into flames
File photo: DPA.

Four guests at a Nuremberg hotel were taken to hospital due to smoke inhalation early Monday morning after a toilet there burst into flames.

Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German towns, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd