German Parliament adopted the data retention law
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The German Federal Parliament adopted on 10 November 2007 the law that implements the EU data retention directive in the German legislation by amending the current wire tapping legislation. This has triggered a strong reaction of the opposition and civil society, more than 13 000 citizens signing to challenge of the law to the Constitutional Court.
The law passed in an open vote (on request by the Greens and the Liberal Party) with 366 parliamentarians voting for the data retention regulations and 156 against them. The members of the SPD (Social Democratic Party), CDU (Christian Democratic Union) and CSU (Christian Social Union) voted for the law pushed by the Federal Minister of Justice Brigitte Zypries and Federal Minister of the Interior Wolfgang Schäuble.
The new law will enter into force on 1 January 2008, when all the telecommunication providers will be requested to keep the traffic data for six months. For the Internet services, this obligation will start at the beginning of 2009. The Internet traffic data will include storing the email addresses, IPs and time stamps in the case of electronic mail. The providers of anonymisation services are also obliged to respect the same provisions.
All these data will be accessible to the law enforcement authorities. But while the police, court and state prosecutors will need a court order to access the information, others - such as the intelligent services - will be able to access the data without any restriction.
The adoption of the law by the Parliament led to a massive response from the civil society, media associations and opposition. The number of the signatories of the constitutional challenge of the law reached to 13 000 in just a few days. The German working group on data retention that is leading this action announced that the list is still open for signatories until 24 December. The action can be filed with the court in Karlsruhe only after the law has been published in the Official Gazette.
Patrick Breyer from the working group explains: "According to our constitution, parliament's powers are limited by the civil rights. It is unheard of that some representatives seem to think that they are no longer responsible for the up-holding of our civil rights."
Criticism of the law was made by the personal data protection authorities, such as the Federal Commissioner for Data Protection Peter Schaar complaining that the Federal Parliament "agreed to the data retention of telecommunication data in absence of any suspicion irrespective of the grave doubts as to its constitutionality" and explaining that the German law exceeds the EU directive on data retention. The Commissioner for Data Protection to the State of Saxony, Anhalt Harald von Bose, joined the harsh comments: "To see this cut-back on personal liberty rights occur on the day of the Fall of the Wall, November 9, is a bitter fact of life."
Media associations have also complained about the lack of special requirements in the case of confidential relationships in professional contexts. The board of the German Journalists' Union, part of the trade union verdi.de, asked their members to support the constitutional challenge promoted by the civil society. Other journalist associations, such as the Federal Association of German Newspaper Publishers, the Association of German Magazine Publishers and the German Association of Specialised Journalists steeped up to show their concerns on the adopted law.
Even the former Federal Minister of Justice Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger has renewed her criticism against the state mandated "retention-craze". There would be "a real chance that this could lead to a surveillance society", she said.
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