Germany eyes re-introduction of data retention law

Data retention has been a prickly proposition for politicians around the globe for years, especially in light of the EU’s previously pernicious Data Retention Directive (DRD) being struck down. While we address a current debate regarding data retention raging in Germany regarding the reintroduction of the obnoxious practice, it is instructive to view some past musings on the subject.

On June 24 2013, the Electronic Frontier Foundation reported that Australia’s ruling Labor Party, in the face of broad public criticism (99 per cent of Australians objected to the bill when surveyed last summer, and the recent NSA revelations can only have served to bolster this opposition), would drop its pursuit data retention laws, at least until after the next election. The announcement followed a report by a parliamentary select committee that not only declined to recommend such measures, but strongly criticised the government for failing to either adequately justify or explain its proposal.

In April 2014 the European Court of Justice (EJC), the highest court in the EU, declared the EU-Wide Data Retention Directive (DRD) invalid on the grounds that,

The directive interferes in a particularly serious manner with the fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data. Furthermore, the fact that data are retained and subsequently used without the subscriber or registered user being informed is likely to generate in the persons concerned a feeling that their private lives are the subject of constant surveillance.’

With this as a background let’s investigate and then question why, in light of the aforementioned developments, Germany plans to introduce a data retention law for call data and IP addresses (curiously, emails are exempted from the plan.) This potential imposition of an odious practice comes as evidence mounts that such laws don’t prevent crime, but merely place innocent citizens under warranted, obtrusive surveillance. But in the ’’cover your ass’’ world of politicians – especially with positions on terrorism swinging elections – they are a popular means of lulling the populace into a false sense of security and mollifying them, while evidencing a guise of proactive legislation.

This data retention initiative is being proffered despite Germany’s previous law on it being ruled unconstitutional. Why it is being resurrected now can only be a knee-jerk reaction to the flood of far-right ideology permeating European political thought of late. Supposedly, emails are exempted from the proposed legislation as they are considered a mass communication tool. Is this to suggest that phone calls are not?

As the Tutanota blogpost suggests, data retention law puts every citizen under surveillance and treats them like criminals. In that regard, it harkens back to the draconian days of the Communist republic in East Germany. Do politicians think that citizens are mindless automatons who will forget such repression? The EU had it right in striking down its DRD… let data retention laws rest in peace.

Stan Ward Stan Ward has enjoyed writing for 50 years. Writing has been a comfortable companion to a successful business and teaching career for him. Find him on Google+.

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