Proposal of computers online searching in Germany

By EDRi · December 20, 2006

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)

Earlier this year, Ingo Wolf, the Minister of the Interior of the German
Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia, and Wolfgang Schäuble, the German
Federal Minister, proposed certain plans that would give the police and
the Interior Federal Office of Criminal Investigation permission to access
online computers of the German citizens of as a measure of internal
security. The plans have been were recently criticized by Germany’s Federal
Data Protection Commissioner Peter Schaar.

In August, Mr. Wolf proposed a draft bill for a new Protection of the
Constitution Act giving the Office for the Protection of the Constitution
undercover access to “hard disks” and other “information technology systems”
on the Internet.

Later, in November 2006, Mr. Schäuble’s Program for Strengthening the
Federal Republic’s Internal Security allowing authorities to monitor online
forums was signed by the Budget Committee of the Bundestag and the lower
chamber of Germany’s Federal Parliament.

Recently a judge at the German Federal Supreme Court has ruled that there
was no legal basis to allow authorities to make online searches of personal

Talking to Berlin daily Berliner Zeitung, Mr. Schaar, Federal Data
Protection Commissioner, expressed his reservations for this project stating
that an online search cannot be compared to a physical search of a person’s
home. “In the case of a search via the Internet a police officer covertly,
without the person knowing about it, accesses a person’s computer.” By
searching through the Internet, an investigator would act as a “state
hacker” accessing personal data thus being in contradiction with “the legal
obligation to protect the core of individuals’ privacy,” said the

“Instead of applying these methods of investigation, the state should
restrict its use of methods to those assigned to it by law,” added Mr.

The Security program of the Federal Ministry of the Interior is still being
pursuit by Mr.Schäuble. The program focuses on searching computers without
any physical access to them and on setting up an “Internet Monitoring and
Analysis Unit ” at the Joint Center for Defense against Terrorism where it
will be possible to eavesdrop on Internet telephone calls and closed chat

The North-Rhine Westphalian bill for a new Protection of the
Constitution Act was adopted on 20 December 2006 by the state

Privacy activist Twister from the German group Stop1984 has announced to
challenge the law at the German constitutional court. “This is
outrageous”, she said to EDRi-Gram. “They try to tell us that if you go
online, your computer is leaving your home and is out in the public. Have
they ever heard of firewalls and cybercrime? In the information age,
people have their most intimate and private information stored on their
hard drives, and there is an absolute barrier for government’s spying eyes
here. And such a barrier has to be kept because privacy can not be
sacrificed in total for an illusion of security.”

Data Protection Commissioner criticizes search of private PCs online

NRW state parliament has adopted law for domestic intelligence agency (in
German only, 20.12.2006)

Prosecuting and security authorities to be allowed to search PCs online

Schaar rejects government hacking. Data protection commissioner against
online-searches (only in German, 14.12.2006)

Federal Court of Justice prohibits online-searches of computer systems (only
in German, 11.12.2006)

EDRI-gram: License to hack: domestic Internet intelligence powers growing in
Germany (13.09.2006)