Privacy fears mean German court overturns part of telecoms law

Privacy fears mean German court overturns part of telecoms law

German constitutional court Karlsruhe.jpg

Germany’s constitutional court has thrown down another section of telecoms law covering how telcos handle personal information.

Friday’s ruling by the court (pictured: CC by SA), based in Karlsruhe, follows a determination in May that makes illegal for the German intelligence service to monitor telecoms traffic of foreigners going through networks and data centres. The latest ruling covers all users within Germany. 

The latest decision by the Federal Constitutional Court – or Bundesverfassungsgericht – extends the rules to manual procedures, overturning part of the country’s Telecommunications Act (Telekommunikationsgesetz or TKG), which the court has declared unconstitutional.

The case was brought by subscribers to telecoms and internet services, including politicians Patrick Breyer and Katharina Nocun. “The manual information procedure enables security authorities to obtain information from telecommunications enterprises, in particular, information on subscribers of telecommunications services or an IP address assigned at a certain point in time,” said the court.

Germany’s history – including laws passed in the 1933-45 Nazi era and by the former government of East Germany until the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 – mean the country’s legal institutions are extremely suspicious of laws on interception of data.

In the official English translation of the ruling, it added that the information covered includes subscriber data and traffic data, not content.

The court declared: “Provisions on transferring and retrieving data must adequately limit the purposes of the utilisation of data, particularly by establishing thresholds for the use of powers as part of the constituent elements of the provision and by providing for sufficiently meaningful protection of legal interests.”


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