Snooping is Addictive

At least 7,500 people are taking part in the “Freedom Not Fear” rally. And 2,500 have at times followed the livestream on the Internet.

“Disgrace!” A man is holding a cardboard sign with this simple message into a sunny Berlin sky, leaving no doubt what he thinks of the state’s data hoarding mania. “Freedom is dying with security”, says another banner. It is an unmistakable message: “security”, as defined by the government and called for by many “law and order” politicians, is not attainable without massive incisions into citizens’ freedoms.

Rena Tangens sees the rally as a success, even though participant numbers are not as high as they were one year ago. “We had expected this, because the fight for civil rights and against surveillance mania is expanding into many different arenas. Our Constitutional Complaint against data retention was a full success. And in March this year, we managed to activate 22,000 people at short notice to join the new complaint against the employee wages database, ELENA. Experts from the civil rights movement have been asked to join the German Bundestag’s Study Commission on the Internet and digital Society. Politicians are taking the issues more seriously, they are listening to our demands. But talking is not enough, we want to see action. This rally shows: we are keeping the pressure up.”

At around 2 p.m. (Central European Summer time, GMT+0200) the colourful and creative rally started to move from Potsdamer Platz towards Leipziger Strasse, along the southern half of the Unter den Linden boulevard, before returning to Potsdamer Platz for the closing manifestation.

Many floats were used by the activists to highlight the manifold problems of state data hoarding. A huge data “octopus”, for example, was surrounded by fish marked with bar codes trying to escape the dangerous predator.

“Don’t count us, count your days”, was another message directed at the German government. It’s not fully clear whether the services trade union ver.di wants to send the government into rehab – “snooping is addictive” was their slogan. At the next stall, a banner by Amnesty International clarified the call: “Transparency safeguards human rights. More accountability at the Police.”

Next to the 130 supporting organisations, many individual participants used banners to voice their concerns. Messages such as “ELENA is a snitch”, “I have something to hide: my privacy”, or “my data belongs to me” convey the anger of the participants.

Images from the rally (under a Creative Commons license) are available here.