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Unanimous rejection of proposed telecommunications data retention Print E-mail

In a joint statement published today, 27 organisations (as of 22 January 2007) reject a bill introduced by the Federal Minister of Justice, Brigitte Zypries, that would force communications providers to store data on every single telephone call, mobile phone call, e-mail and internet connection (so-called „telecommunications data retention“) and make this data available to police and to public prosecution authorities. According to the organisations it is “unacceptable” that sensitive information about social contacts, movements and private lives of more than 80 million citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany is to be collected without reasonable suspicion of a criminal offence. The joint statement is supported by civil rights associations, data protection and human rights NGOs, journalist organisations and media associations, by the Internet industry and the German crisis helpline, by associations of lawyers and jurists and by the German consumer advice centre.

In addition to aiding criminal investigation, the Federal Government justifies the proposed data retention bill with the need to implement an EU directive of March 2006. Patrick Breyer, a jurist and member of the German Working Group on Data Retention (Arbeitskreis Vorratsdatenspeicherung), rejects this point: “The directive on telecommunications data retention is clearly unlawful so that Germany is not obliged to implement it.” Today’s joint statement explains: “The directive violates fundamental rights as guaranteed in European Law, and the procedure of its adoption violates EU treaties.” In July 2006, an action of nullity was filed against the directive with the European Court of Justice. The organisations call for the government to at least await the outcome of this action before ordering "a recording of the German people’s behaviour as far-reaching as that".

The alleged benefits of telecommunications data retention are questioned in a detailed analysis published Friday by the German Working Group on Data Retention. According to the analysis, prosecutors rarely find themselves in need of more communications data. A study published by the Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt) demonstrates that telecommunications data retention could raise the average crime detection rate “from currently 55% to 55.006% at best”. Telecommunications data retention did not have any perceptible influence on crime rates in Ireland or other states. “Thus, telecommunications data retention cannot be considered to strengthen public safety.”

Instead, data retention “costs millions of euros, puts the privacy of innocent people at risk, interferes with confidential communications and paves the way for an ever-increasing mass accumulation of information about the entire population.” If people need to be concerned that large parts of their communications behaviour, movements and internet usage are being recorded, “disruptions in communications and changes of behaviour” are to be expected. Therefore, mass data storage harms “free society as a whole”, the Working Group's statement to the Federal Ministry of Justice says.

The joint statement of 22 January 2007 in full:

Joint statement on the draft bill on telecommunications data retention

According to the draft bill on the reform of telecommunications surveillance, telecommunications companies will be required as of autumn 2007 to store data about their customers' communications. In order to improve criminal investigation, it is to be traceable who communicated with whom in the last six months by telephone, mobile phone or e-mail. In the case of mobile phone calls and text messages, the respective location of the user is to be recorded as well. By 2009 at the latest, internet usage is to become traceable as well.

We consider unacceptable a recording of the German people’s behaviour as far-reaching as that. Without any suspicion, sensitive information about social contacts (including business contacts), movements and the private lives (e.g. contacts with physicians, lawyers, psychologists, helplines) of over 80 million citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany is to be collected. Telecommunications data retention thus undermines the professional secrecy of lawyers, physicians, clergy, helplines and other professionals, and also abets industrial espionage. It undermines the protection of journalistic sources and thus damages the freedom of the press. The enormous costs of telecommunications data retention are to be borne by telecommunications providers. This will lead to price increases, the discontinuation of services and will indirectly burden consumers.

Studies prove that the communications data available today is generally sufficient for effective criminal investigations. There is no proof that telecommunications data retention would provide for better protection against crime. Instead it would cost millions of euros, put the privacy of innocent people at risk, disrupt confidential communications and pave the way for an ever-increasing mass accumulation of information about the entire population.

Legal experts expect the Federal Constitutional Court to declare the retention of telecommunications data in the absence of any suspicion unconstitutional. They also expect the European Court of Justice to annul the EU directive on telecommunications data retention. The directive violates fundamental rights as safeguarded by European Law. The procedure in which it was adopted violates the EU treaties. Ireland has already initiated an action for annulment of the directive. The government should at least await the outcome of this action.

As representatives of the citizens, the media, professionals and industry we collectively reject the proposal of telecommunications data retention. We appeal to politicians to fundamentally distance themselves from the proposed systematic blanket retention of data.


  • Arbeitskreis Vorratsdatenspeicherung
  • Bundesverband Deutscher Zeitungsverleger e.V. (BDZV)
  • Chaos Computer Club e.V. (CCC)
  • Deutsche Journalistinnen- und Journalisten-Union (dju) in ver.di
  • Deutsche Liga für Menschenrechte e.V.
  • Deutsche Vereinigung für Datenschutz (DVD) e.V.
  • Deutscher Journalisten-Verband (DJV)
  • Deutscher Presserat
  • eco Verband der deutschen Internetwirtschaft e.V.
  • Evangelische Konferenz für Telefonseelsorge und Offene Tür e.V.
  • Förderverein für eine Freie Informationelle Infrastruktur e.V. (FFII Deutschland)
  • Forum InformatikerInnen für Frieden und gesellschaftliche Verantwortung e.V. (FIfF)
  • Gesellschaft für Datenschutz und Datensicherung e.V. (GDD)
  • Gustav Heinemann-Initiative (GHI)
  • Humanistische Union e.V.
  • Internationale Liga für Menschenrechte (ILMR)
  • Komitee für Grundrechte und Demokratie e.V.
  • Netzwerk Neue Medien e.V.
  • netzwerk recherche e.V.
  • Neue Richtervereinigung e.V. (NRV)
  • no abuse in internet e.V. (naiin)
  • Organisationsbüro der Strafverteidigervereinigungen
  • Republikanischer Anwältinnen- und Anwälteverein e.V. (RAV)
  • STOP1984
  • Verband Deutscher Zeitschriftenverleger (VDZ)
  • Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband e.V. (vzbv)
  • Vereinigung Demokratischer Juristinnen und Juristen e.V. (VDJ)

Further signatories:

  • Berufsverband Deutscher Psychologinnen und Psychologen e.V. (BDP)
  • Bund demokratischer Wissenschaftlerinnen und Wissenschaftler (BdWi)
  • Bundeskoordination Internationalismus (BUKO)
  • Bundesverband deutscher Pressesprecher e.V. (BdP)
  • Bundesverband Digitale Wirtschaft e.V. (BVDW)
  • Bundesverband Frauenberatungsstellen und Frauennotrufe (bff)
  • Bundesverband junger Autorinnen und Autoren (BVjA)
  • Berufsverband unabhängiger Handwerkerinnen und Handwerker e.V. (BUH)
  • Deutscher Anwaltverein e.V. (DAV)
  • Deutscher Fachjournalisten-Verband (DFJV)
  • FREELENS e.V. - Verband der Fotojournalisten
  • Initiative Bayerischer Strafverteidigerinnen und Strafverteidiger e.V.
  • Reporter ohne Grenzen e.V
  • Verband der Internet-Cafes Deutschland e.V. (VICD)
  • Verein zur Förderung der Suchmaschinen-Technologie und des freien Wissenszugangs e.V. (SuMa-eV)
  • Verein zur Förderung des öffentlichen bewegten und unbewegten Datenverkehrs e.V. (FoeBuD)
  • Verein zur Politischen Jugendpartizipation e.V. (VPJ)

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