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Germany's highest court overturns privacy-invading anti-terror law

By J. DeVoy

Today, Germany’s highest court overturned a law mandating the retention of data from e-mails and phone calls, finding it a “grave intrusion” on personal liberties.  This is an interesting demarcation of what is considered private information in that nation, as its courts previously held that individuals’ IP addresses are not personal information and can be stored without consequence.

From the article:

The law had ordered that all data — except content — from phone calls and e-mail exchanges be retained for six months for possible use by criminal authorities, who could probe who contacted whom, from where and for how long.

“The disputed instructions neither provided a sufficient level of data security, nor sufficiently limited the possible uses of the data,” the court said, adding that “such retention represents an especially grave intrusion.”

The court said because citizens did not notice the data was being retained it caused “a vague and threatening sense of being watched.”

There second paragraph’s buried lede is that this policy could pass muster if it offered greater data security and a narrower range of the data’s potential uses.  In reality, the court could set those standards so high that they could never be met.  But, it seems the court isn’t permanently closing the door on such regulations.

Changes ordered by the court included granting access to the data only by court order and only in the event of “concrete and imminent danger.” The court further insisted the information be stored in the private sector so it was not concentrated in one spot.

Sounds reasonable.  Generally, parties need a warrant or subpoena to access IP, e-mail and phone records in the U.S. as well.  The standard isn’t as high as “concrete and imminent danger,” but this isn’t a perfect comparison, either.  As for storing the data in the private sector, this seems like more of Germany’s epic free market trolling that began with electing Angela Merkel.

And, of course, there’s a historical angle:

Germans, in particular, are sensitive to privacy issues, based on their experiences under the Nazis as well as the former East Germany’s Communist dictatorships, where information on individuals was collected and abused by the state.

Whatever the reason, it’s good to see Germany stand up to the E.U.  When the union’s currency collapse comes to pass and its open-borders immigration policies prove to be unsustainable (however warm and fuzzy they make people feel), Germany will be one of the few nations left standing.

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