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After ruling on data retention: activists remain confident (10 Feb 2009) Print E-mail

Although the European Court of Justice did not annul the blanket collection of traffic and location data of the entire population (so-called "data retention") today,[1] the German Working Group on Data Retention remains confident that it will do so in a second procedure.

"The ruling only concerns the formal matter of the correct legal basis and does not address the violation of human rights by the unwarranted registration of the entire population's telecommunications behaviour and movements", comments Werner Hülsmann of the Working Group. "The 34'000 plaintiffs in the German suit against data retention[2] have applied to the German Constitutional Court to seek a separate ruling by the European Court of Justice on the compatibility of data retention with human rights."

"We are generally in urgent need of a moratorium to new surveillance and security legislation", adds Patrick Breyer of the Working Group. "We also need an independent review of all surveillance laws in regard to their effectiveness and harmful side effects. Even the federal government's second security report calls for a 'systematical evaluation' of such legislation, arguing that 'without evidence anything can be justified somehow'. In view of spectacular court rulings annulling PNR data disclosure, DNA databases in the UK and vehicle scanning in Germany, we need the European Fundamental Rights Agency to review every proposal of new surveillance measures at an early stage as to its compatibility with our fundamental rights and jurisprudence."

Pending the final ruling by the European Court of Justice, the Working Group recommends taking effective protective measures against the monitoring of one's personal and professional contacts and movements:

  1. Sign up for free and prepaid services (e.g. e-mail accounts, prepaid SIM cards) using assumed identities only.
  2. Use anonymizing services for sensitive activity on the Internet.
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