Data retention in Germany partly suspended by Constitutional Court - NGO demands resignation of...

German NGO Working Group on Data Retention welcomes today's decision by the Federal Constitutional Court to partly suspend the blanket collection of traffic and location data of the entire population (the so-called "data retention") by putting tight restrictions on how retained data may be used. The NGO now demands the resignation of the responsible Minister of Justice, social democrat Brigitte Zypries.

"Mrs Zypries negotiated the data retention rules against the will of the German Parliament, agreed to an EU directive which lacks a legal basis and tried to impose data retention in Germany in violation of the clear jurisprudence of the Federal Constitutional Court. This intentional breach of our constitution disqualifies her as a Minister of Justice", says Patrick Breyer of the Working Group who is also one of the complainants who applied for the ruling. "Mrs Zypries systematically deceived the public. For example, she told Parliament data retention was about 'serious crime', whereas the German transposition law covers any criminal act committed using telecommunications networks. She claimed the EU directive was being transposed at a 'minimum level' whereas in truth the German transposition law goes far beyond EU rules. We need Ministers of the Interior and Justice who appreciate our liberties!"

The Working Group on Data Retention also calls for material consequences to the ruling. Germany must stop plans to register all air travel in Europe. This threatens to be the next unconstitutional blanket collection of data. Likewise plans to breach the secrecy of the post in the millions by collecting and processing mail and packet data are to be abandoned immediately. Under the rule of law, the computerized blanket mass registration of people and their behaviour is unacceptable. Generally, we are in urgent need of a halt to new surveillance and security legislation and an independent review of all surveillance laws enacted since 1968 with regard to their effectiveness and harmful side effects. Even the second report of the federal government is now calling for a "systematical evaluation" of such legislation, arguing that "without evidence anything can be justified somehow". The proposed extension of powers of the Federal Criminal Police Office including online spying in personal computers, as well as the inclusion of biometric data in ID cards threatens to be a further waste of taxpayers' money. The Working Group calls on the conservative and the social democratic parties to stop those plans immediately.

Although the Federal Constitutional Court did not for now suspend the blanket collection of telecommunications data itself, the Working Group remains optimistic. “This is but a preliminary ruling. The Constitutional Court is traditionally reserved with regard to preliminary rulings. We remain confident that in cooperation with over 30.000 other applicants, we will be able to stop the surveillance of telecommunications in the absence of reasonable suspicion”, declares Werner Hülsmann, member of the Working Group. In the meantime, the Working Group gives recommendations on its homepage on how to circumvent data retention. "The decision of the Federal Constitutional Court is a success that was also achieved by thousands of people who resisted their wanton surveillance on the streets, in letters to politicians and with their constitutional complaints", adds Werner Hülsmann.

The German Working Group on Data Retention asks citizens to take their deputies to task and ask them just how they intend to effectively prevent such violations of our constitutional rights in the future, for example in regard to the proposed extension of powers of the Federal Criminal Police Office and the planned indiscriminate collection of data on air travellers. The Working Group also 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.

For more information, please refer to our press releases of Dec. 31st, 2007 and Feb. 29th, 2008:,en/,en/