Germany's salaries database bites the dust

By EDRi · July 27, 2011

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Deutsch: [Deutsche Arbeitnehmerdatenbank ELENA beißt ins Gras |]

The German government announced, in a press release on 18 July 2011,
that it was going to abandon its central database and registration
procedure for salaries, ELENA (“Elektronischer Entgeltnachweis”/
“electronic salary record”), as soon as possible.

With this decision, German civil rights group and EDRi-member FoeBuD can
celebrate the successful outcome of a complaint they had handed in at
Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court even before the court came to
consider its ruling. The complaint has been signed by more than 22 000
petitioners. In FoeBuD’s analysis, the government finally had to pull the
plug on this ill-fated project after more than a year of procrastination.

A joint press statement by the Federal Ministries of Economics and of
Labour points to an insufficient uptake of the “qualified electronic
signature” as the reason to abandon the project. FoeBuD and their
lawyers call it regrettable that technical issues were highlighted and
no mention was made of the doubtful constitutional legality of the
procedure, which required all employers to transmit data on all salaries
to a central database operated by Germany’s state pension insurance.
More than 400 million records of employee salaries have already been
collected, although most of this data was not even required for the
intended electronic records.

The press release gives reason to suspect that the government has by no
means given up on their idea to establish an electronic register of
employee data. As the statement says, “the Federal Ministry for Labour
and Social Affairs will formulate a concept on how the infrastructure
and know-how established through ELENA can be used for a simpler and
less bureaucratic procedure to record social security data.”

As the intention to collect all German citizens’ sensitive data in
central databases lingers on, there is reason to stay alert after the
current success regarding ELENA. FoeBuD will continue to monitor future
developments to guard against a replacement for this disproportionate
procedure being introduced through the back door.

Press statement by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology and
the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (only in German,

In-depth response by one of the lawyers in FoeBuD’s Constitutional
Complaint, Meinhard Starostik (only in German, 19.07.2011)

(Contribution by Sebastian Lisken, EDRi member FoeBuD / redacted
translation of FoeBuD’s German press release)