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Civil liberties campaigners: Communications Data Retention will be stopped (2008-06-30) Print E-mail

Tomorrow, on July, 1st, a hearing by the European Court of Justice on Ireland's action for annulment of the directive on data retention [1] will take place in Luxemburg. [2] The NGO "Arbeitskreis Vorratsdatenspeicherung" (German Working Group on Data Retention) comments:

We expect the European Court of Justice will annul the directive on data retention within the next few months. The German Federal Constitutional Court has announced it would then "comprehensively examine" the German law on data retention "with regard to its compatibility with German fundamental rights". On that basis we are confident that we will win our class action against the permanent blanket registration of our communications behaviour and movements. [3] In the meantime concerned citizens can prevent an abusive or accidental disclosure of their data only by using prepaid mobile phone cards that are not registered in their name, and by using Internet anonymization services.

With regard to the recent proposal by the European Commission of registering all flight passenger information even without reasonable suspicion of any wrong-doing, [4] jurist Patrick Breyer of the Working Group comments: "The Bundestag must draw the obvious conclusion and stop the next unconstitutional EU-induced blanket retention of personal data. The mere demands by our government and the Bundesrat to water down the proposal will lead directly to the next violation of our fundamental rights. We must not allow a human rights vaccuum at the international level."

The Working Group recommends effective protective measures against the monitoring of one's personal and professional contacts and movements:

1. Ask the data protection officers of your telephone provider, your mobile phone provider, your e-mail provider and your Internet provider whether and for how many days they retain your traffic data. Ask for the immediate deletion of such data and use flat rates. If your provider keeps retaining data, change to another provider.

2. Use free and prepaid services only after signing up under an assumed identity (e.g. e-mail accounts, prepaid SIM cards). This will continue to remain entirely legal in the future.

3. Use anonymizing services and software for sensitive activity on the Internet.


A law adopted by social democrats and conservatives in German parliament allows, since the beginning of 2008, retracing for the past six months who has communicated with whom by telephone or mobile phone and at what location. By 2009 at the latest, the use of German e-mail, internet and anonymization services is required to be traceable as well.

A survey conduced by research institute Forsa found in May that with communications data retention in place, one in two Germans would refrain from contacting a marriage counsellor, a psychotherapist or a drug abuse counsellor by telephone, mobile phone or e-mail if they needed their help. One in thirteen people said they had refrained from using telephone, mobile phone or e-mail at least once this year because of data retention, which would extrapolate to 6.5 mio. Germans in total.

With over 34'000 applicants, the largest constitutional complaint Germany has ever seen is directed against the blanket retention of communications data. In March the German Constitutional Court issued an interim order according to which service providers may disclose retained data only for the prosecution of serious crime. In June it was revealed that Germany's top telco provider, Deutsche Telekom, had used communications data for spying on journalists and some of its managers, demonstrating that abuses of the highly sensitive amassed communications data cannot effectively be prevented.

About Arbeitskreis Vorratsdatenspeicherung:

Arbeitskreis Vorratsdatenspeicherung is a German association of civil rights and privacy activists as well as regular Internet users that runs a campaign against the complete logging of all telecommunications.




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