German legislation troubles the big Internet companies

By EDRi · July 4, 2007

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)

Yahoo and Google seems to have problems adapting their business to the tough
requirements of the German law regarding content harmful to minors and the
implementation of the data retention directive, respectively.

Yahoo has recently changed the way the content filter setting for its
photo-sharing service Flickr works for German members so that they can’t
view photos labelled as “moderate” or “restricted” via the search function.
This caused a lot of complaints from German users, that created special
groups on the platform such as Against Censorship! Also they started
uploading anti-Flickr pictures in the Yahoo photo sharing service and tag
them as “thinkflickrthink”.

In the end Flickr allowed the German users to turn SafeSearch off to allow
photos flagged as ‘moderate’ and tried to explain the situation.

“Flickr’s intent is never to censor content, but rather to comply with
local legal restrictions. In Germany, local law (Jugendmedien-Staatsvertrag
JMStV) requires stringent age verification in order to display online
content that could be considered harmful to minors.” explained Flickr’s
co-founder Stewart Butterfield.

Community Manager, Heather Champ added : “The central problem is that
Germany has much more stringent age verification laws than its neighbouring
countries,” she said. She described the risks of breaking these laws as
being punished with “much harsher penalties, including jail time, for those
with direct responsibility.”

The German draft law for the implementation of the data retention directive
also raises problems with the online service providers. The draft foresees
that providers of e-mail services will basically have to keep records of the
following: the user’s IP address for each e-mail sent and for each access to
the inbox as well as the sender’s network ID for every e-mail received.
According to an interview to the German economics magazine Wirtschaftswoche,
Peter Fleischer, Google privacy counsellor considered the draft law as “a
severe blow to privacy ” and praised the possibility to have anonymous email

According to Heise he also declared that : “If need be we will simply switch
off Google Mail in Germany”, but this was later considered as a
misinterpreted quote, and the correct statement was :

“We think that this law is bad for users and bad for privacy on the
Internet. Google believes that users should have the right to create an
email account without going through the hassle of having to prove exactly
who they are. Anonymous email is particularly important for political
dissidents, for example.” Google also hoped that the German federal
government will change its plans in this respect.

User protests against and Yahoo’s justification for filters at Flickr

Against Censorship! at Flickr

(Official Topic) German SafeSearch settings (20.06.2007)

Google threatens to shut down e-mail service in Germany (25.06.2007)

Lost In Translation: German Gmail Stays Put (27.06.2007)

EDRI-gram: Data retention and increased surveillance in Germany (25.04.2007)