The German constitutional court has ruled that the police and intelligence officials have too much access to people’s personal mobile phone and internet data. A win for privacy activists, the court has directed the government to amend applicable laws to better protect the privacy of German citizens.
Current Data Access Laws Unconstitutional
The Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe ruled Friday that police and intelligence officials have excessive access to people’s personal phone and internet data. The court judged that the current laws which govern the manual procedure for obtaining information on subscriber data are unconstitutional and the privacy of German citizens should be better protected. Reuters described:
The court ruling is a victory for privacy activists who had said there were not sufficient limits on when and why federal police or domestic intelligence can access the names and addresses or even e-mail passwords and mobile phone PINs of users.
One of the lawsuits which the ruling is based on was filed in 2013 by Katharina Nocun and Patrick Breyer of the Pirate Party with around 6,000 joint plaintiffs. The court ruled that the authorities had been allowed to access data for causes that did not meet the threshold of legal interest and current laws violated the right of citizens to phone and internet privacy.
According to the court, “Neither the existing laws regulating under which circumstances telecoms companies such as Deutsche Telekom can hand over the data, nor the ones determining why investigators can request such data, are in line with Germany’s Constitution,” the publication conveyed.
This ruling means that Germany’s Telecommunications Act and several other laws will need to be revised. The court has ordered legislators to amend the laws by Dec. 31, 2021.
Friday’s decision followed another by the constitutional court that Germany’s Constitution protects the privacy of internet users living outside the country. The court ruled in May that the Federal Intelligence Service is bound by the Constitution when surveilling foreigners’ telecommunications. Noting that their current process of collecting and analyzing such data is unconstitutional, the court ordered that the unconstitutional parts of the law be rewritten by the end of 2021.
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