German judges kill retention bill

Judges at Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court have killed the current incarnation of the data retention bill. The law was passed by the former conservative/social democrat coalition in 2008, during the last legislative period. It determined that all communications data had to be stored for a full six months in order to aid prosecution and as a mere preventive measure.

The judges deemed the law did not meet the demands of the principle of commensurability. Not only that, but single paragraphs were also declared null and void, meaning there is not current lawful basis for collecting and storing communications data. All such data now has to be deleted.

The Federal Constitutional Court did however not say data retention is entirely unconstitutional. Nonetheless, a future data retention law will have to have the bar set far higher, in view of citizen’s rights.

Germans were up in arms about having data stored which would allow the state to see what internet sites and services they had used, whom they had talked with and whom they had sent a text message. Citizens in the country are especially sensitive in regards to state surveillance and control, owing to recent history. For many, being subject to general suspicion smacked of either communist or nazi rule.

Especially internet-savvy young people are not prepared to surrender liberty and freedom for the illusion of more security. Populist laws passed by conservative ministers triggered a large backlash during last year’s elections in Germany. The Pirate Party entered two city councils in the federal state of North-Rhine Westfalia and garnered 2% of votes for parliament – more than the Green Party, when they were up for vote the first time.