DE-CIX ‘vindicated’ by German court’s anti-spying decision

DE-CIX ‘vindicated’ by German court’s anti-spying decision

20 May 2020 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Internet exchange DE-CIX has said it has been vindicated by yesterday’s court decision to stop German spies monitoring foreign telecoms traffic.

 The country’s constitutional court declared it illegal for the German intelligence service, the BND, to monitor telecoms traffic of foreigners going through German networks and data centres.

“DE-CIX therefore sees its decision to lodge a complaint back in 2018 against official orders received by us on the basis of the BND Act as vindicated,” said DE-CIX.

“In this landmark decision by the German Constitutional Court, the majority of our own objections have now been decided on in the spirit of our own lawsuit.”

The court gave the German government until the end of 2021 to modify the law, which violates the fundamental right to privacy of telecommunications and to freedom of the press, guaranteed by the Basic Law – Germany’s constitution.

“The new regulation of the BND Act, which came into effect in 2017, was highly controversial from the very outset and there were considerable doubts as to its constitutionality,” said DE-CIX after the decision. “With today’s verdict, the German Constitutional Court has taken the opportunity through a landmark decision of setting clear limits to the surveillance powers of intelligence services and providing the German federal government with guidelines for a constitutionally compliant design.”

DE-CIX operates more than 20 internet exchanges worldwide – in key markets such as Europe, North America, India, the Middle East and south-east Asia. DE-CIX in Frankfurt is the largest internet exchange in the world, with a data throughput of more than 9Tbps.

DE-CIX complained to the court because it has received orders from the BND to carry out strategic signals intelligence and “international-international signals intelligence. “These official orders authorise the BND to access data to a significant extent at the internet exchange DE-CIX in Frankfurt am Main,” said DE-CIX yesterday.

DE-CIX complained to the Federal Administrative Court in September 2016, but that lawsuit was rejected after an oral hearing.

DE-CIX noted that the latest court decision applies to non-German nationals and people outside of Germany.

“In this way, the secrecy of telecommunications has been considerably strengthened in the age of digital communication and extended to the requirements of cyber space,” said DE-CIX in its prepared statement, which was not attributed to any specific executive.

It added that “prior scrutiny of the surveillance measures of the service is required. This requirement is also consistent with the deficiencies in practice that were identified on the part of DE-CIX.”

The case decided yesterday was brought by Reporters Without Borders, also known as Reporters sans frontières, as well as German journalists’ unions and some foreign journalists. They challenged a 2017 amendment to the law that governs the Federal Intelligence Service (Bundesnachrichtendienst – BND) that allowed it to conduct telecommunications surveillance of foreigners in other countries.

On DE-CIX’s continuing proceedings before the Constitutional Court, the company declared: “The majority of our own objections have now been decided on in the spirit of our own lawsuit.”