Government divided over phone data law

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27 Dec, 2011 Updated Tue 27 Dec 2011 14:54 CEST
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The German government is riven over whether telecom companies should be allowed to keep customers' data indefinitely. Critics say easier police access to data could have helped solve recently-revealed Neo-nazi murders.


German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger is holding firm to her refusal to allow telecom companies to store IP addresses and phone records indefinitely, despite recent revelations about the state's failures to track down a far-right terrorist group calling itself the National Socialist Underground.

"Just looking at data storage is a completely narrow and false view of the matter," the minister argued on state radio station Deutschlandfunk Tuesday morning. "The mistakes and systemic flaws lie much, much deeper and further back."

The government's main coalition party the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has been attempting to increase the police's access to telecom data, but junior coalition partner the Free Democratic Party (FDP), to which Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger belongs, has blocked all proposals that involve storing data for months on end and giving the police free access to it.

Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger's compromise is to allow the police access to telecom data only in the case of concrete evidence.

"In a case like this, where there is suspicion of far-right extremism, the police could use necessary data," she said. "On the other hand it would of course protect fundamental rights much better than if I just store all the communications data of 82 million people for six months."

Jörg Ziercke, head of the German federal police, warned recently that without giving police more access, it could become impossible to track down criminal networks that are using the internet.

A European Union deadline for Germany to find a compromise runs out on Tuesday, meaning Germany may face penalties from the EU for failure comply with a directive.

The Local/bk



2011/12/27 14:54

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