UPDATE: 6/22/2015: Germany’s SPD approves data retention legislation, moving it forward to parliament for discussion.
Recently, German justice minister Heiko Maas proposed a requirement for all telecommunications service providers to retain user metadata for up to 10 weeks as a national security measure.
Retention means that the information on who, when, where someone talked, or emailed or sent a text message would be stored. Regardless if someone was suspicious, information would be traced to see who has spoken with who and as often.
In not so distant past of 2010, Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court(FCC) deemed EU’s Data Retention Directive(DRD) of 2006 and Germany’s Implementation Act (which brought the Directive to national law) invalid on grounds of fundamental rights violations. It was followed-up by 2014 European Court of Justice ruling, stating that mass storage of internet users “without any distinction, restriction or exception” was contrary to fundamental human rights.
Fast forward to April 2015, Heiko Maas claims the new proposal of data retention law is a compromise that would both assist national security and address issues with earlier Data Retention Policy. After-all, FCC never ruled data retention by and of itself unconstitutional. It was rather its arrangement in the Data Retention Implementation Act that did not comply with the rights to secrecy of communications and informational self-determination.
Proposed amendments include the time-frame of how long the data would be stored (down from 6 months to 10 weeks), all e-mail traffic would be excluded from retention, retrieval of retained data would always depend on a judicial order and would be prohibited when related to people working under professional secrecy.
Recent tendencies for politicians to show where they stand on terrorism and cybersecurity make data retention laws popular with unproven effectiveness, dangerously instilling false sense of security. And most importantly, citizens right to privacy is omitted from the consideration. As they say, you can’t make the same mistake twice- the second time you do, it’s a choice. Let’s hope Germany chooses wisely.