German civil society calls for a definitive end to telecom data retention

By EDRi · April 21, 2010

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [Deutsche Zivilgesellschaft fordert endg├╝ltigen Stopp der Vorratsdatenspeicherung | http://www.unwatched.org/node/1869]

More than 40 organisations and associations have sent a letter asking the
German Federal Minister of Justice to “push for the abolition of EU
telecommunications data retention requirements” which compel phone and
Internet companies to collect data about their customers’ communications.
According to the letter, data retention puts confidential activity and
contacts (for example journalists, crisis lines and business partners) at
risk of disclosure by way of data leaks and abuses. It is expensive and
damages the freedom of communication.

Among the 48 signatories of the letter there are German civil liberties,
data protection and human rights associations as well as crisis line and
emergency call operators, professional associations of journalists, jurists
and doctors, major trade unions, the Federation of German Consumer
Organisations and the eco Association of the German Internet Industry.

On 2 March 2010, the German Federal Constitutional Court ruled the German
data retention provisions unconstitutional and void, following complaints
from over 34 000 German citizens. However, a 2006 EU directive compels
member states to implement a data retention regime. The European Commission
is currently reviewing this directive. The German Federal Minister of
Justice, a member of the liberal party, has yet to call for an end to the
EU-wide compulsion to collect communications data.

“The EU-wide requirement to retain the entire population’s communications
data, introduced in 2005, is outdated”, comments Patrick Breyer of theGerman
Working Group on Data Retention. “Blanket data retention has proven to be
superfluous, harmful and unconstitutional in many states across Europe, such
as Germany, Austria, Belgium, Greece, Romania and Sweden. These states
prosecute crime just as effectively using targeted
instruments, such as the internationally agreed Convention on Cybercrime.
Where data retention has been implemented, the crime clearance rate has not
increased. For example in North Rhine-Westphalia, the most populated state
of Germany, 85% of all reported Internet crime was cleared in 2007 before
the introduction of data retention legislation, but only 77% was cleared in
2008 and in 2009 after the implementation of data retention. The EU
regulations must now be made more flexible to allow for alternative
procedures that work more intelligently than an untargeted stockpiling of
data.”

“About 70% of all Germans are opposed to a recording of their contacts and
location in the absence of any suspicion”, says Florian Altherr of the
Working Group. “They want to be sure that their private and business
contacts to marital crisis lines, lawyers, journalists and others cannot
fall into the wrong hands or erroneously make them a suspect in the eyes of
law enforcement authorities. The countless number of data scandals such as
the systematic abuse of communications data at Deutsche Telekom have taught
us that only erased data is safe data.”

Translation of the letter to the Federal Minister of Justice (19.04.2010)
http://www.vorratsdatenspeicherung.de/content/view/362/79/lang,en/

The German Federal Constitutional Court’s judgement on data retention
http://www.bverfg.de/en/press/bvg10-011en.html

The Commission’s draft evaluation report
http://www.vorratsdatenspeicherung.de/images/RoomDocumentEvaluationDirective200624EC.pdf

Position of the German government (only in German, 30.09.2009)
http://www.vorratsdatenspeicherung.de/images/DR-consult/de_ms_de.pdf

Response by the German Working Group on Data retention (13.11.2009)
http://www.vorratsdatenspeicherung.de/images/reply_commission_data-retention_english-summary_2009-11-13.pdf

Crime clearance rate in 2009 (only in German)
http://www.polizei-nrw.de/lka/stepone/data/downloads/6a/01/00/pks-jahresbericht2009.pdf

Poll on data retention (only in German, 25.01.2010)
http://www.vorratsdatenspeicherung.de/images/infas-umfrage.pdf

(Press release of the German Working Group on Data Retention)