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5-Minute Overview: Proposed German Data Retention Law

According to plans of the German parties CDU, CSU, and SPD, from 2008 onwards it will be possible to trace who has contacted whom via telephone, mobile phone or e-mail for a period of six months. In the case of mobile calls or text messages via mobile phone, the user's location will also be logged. Anonymising services will be prohibited.

The data that will be collected about the entire population will allow our movements to be traced, any calls or communications with business contacts to be monitored, and will remove privacy in our personal and business relationships. It also allows the content of communications to be analyzed, content such as personal interests and the individual life circumstances of the person communicating. Access to the data is to be granted to the police, public prosecutors, secret services, and foreign states which hope for better prosecution in the area of terrorism and major crimes.

At present, telecommunications providers may only retain data required for billing purposes. This is not the case with location data and information regarding e-mails, for example. Customers can request the deletion of billing data as soon as the monthly invoice has been sent out. By using a flat rate, one can prevent the collection of traffic data altogether, which can be important for journalists, counselors and others.

What is the Problem?

The current plans regarding the collection of information about citizens' communication, movements, and use of media constitute the greatest threat yet to our right to an independent and private life.

We will all suffer from data retention:

  • Data retention constitutes an excessive invasion of our personal privacy.
  • Data retention disrupts professional activities (e.g. in the fields of medicine, law, clergy, journalism, etc.) as well as political and business activities that rely on confidentiality of communication. It ultimately harms the freedom of our society itself.
  • Data retention doesn't prevent terrorism or crime. It is unnecessary, as it can easily be circumvented by criminals.
  • Data retention violates the human right to privacy and informational self-determination.
  • Data retention puts a financial strain on businesses and consumers.
  • Data retention discriminates against users of telephones, mobile/cell phones and internet services compared to users of other means of communication.

Current situation

The German Federal Minister of Justice, Brigitte Zypries, drafted legislation for the introduction of data retention in Germany. The Bundestag (German parliament) voted on the bill in November 2007. It was signed by the president in December and is scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2008. The plans are supported by the governing parties CDU, CSU, and SPD, but there is an increasing tendency, also in politics, to at least delay data retention until the European Court has ruled on its legality.

Whether or not data retention can be averted greatly depends on public pressure.

Act now:

  • Change the minds of SPD, CDU, and CSU MEPs
  • Take part in the class action suit against data retention
  • Sign the appeal "SPD, CDU and CSU against data retention"
  • Participate in the "Arbeitskreis Vorratsdatenspeicherung" (German Work Group on Data Retention)
  • Become active in other ways

Read more:

  • Latest news
  • Background information on data retention
  • Pros and cons of data retention
  • More information and resources
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