German Constitutional Court held hearing on data retention

By EDRi · December 16, 2009

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Deutsch: [Das deutsche Bundesverfassungsgericht verhandelt über Vorratsdatenspeicherung|]

The German Constitutional Court held a hearing on 15 December 2009 in the
largest constitutional case ever regarding the local implementation of the
data retention law. The motion has been supported by over 34 000 people. The
law has already been limited by the court with two earlier interim measures.

The new Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger is in an awkward
position, as she has joined the action against the law as a member of the
opposition. But now she also needs to represent the Government in supporting
the law in front of the Court.

Constitutional Court President Hans-Jürgen Papier said at the beginning of
the hearing that the complaint raises fundamental questions about the
relationship between freedom and security.

During the hearing the Green Party politician Volker Beck, warned of a
“black day for the Magna Carta of privacy.” Constanze Kurz of the
EDRi-member Chaos Computer Club warned about the potential abuses of the
retained data and that their combination with other data
could lead to a precise overview of every movement of the citizens. The
concerns were confirmed by the German Federal Data Protection Supervisor
Peter Schaar who explained that the mobile phone companies retained more
location data than just the network cell where the user was.

The hearing also included information from independent experts. The Dresden
computer science professor Andreas Pfitzmann explained how the retention of
communications data threatened and weakened significantly the democratic

For the constitutionality of the law spoke Christopher Moller,
representative of the Federal Government in the proceedings, who, however,
conceded that the legislation restricted the basic rights by the retention
of telecommunication data. The government representative was questioned by
the judges who were very critical to his assertions.

The Government representative was also backed by Police representatives who
showed examples when the law could be useful, and the representatives of the
Federal Music Industry and Association of German Publishers.

A verdict is expected from the court in two to three months.

Live coverage of the hearing (only in German, 15.12.2009)

Ticker: Mündliche Anhörung zur Vorratsdatenspeicherung

Press release of the data retention working group (only in German,

Retention before the Federal Constitutional Court: Critical issues, serious
concerns (only in German, 15.12.2009)

Germany’s largest-ever class action suit kicks off (15.12.2009)