Monday

17th Jun 2019

German court strikes blow against EU data-retention regime

  • The German court order the data retention from phones and the internet to be stopped immediately (Photo: EUobserver)

Germany's highest court on Tuesday (2 March) ruled that a key data-retention law, arising from an EU directive seen as central in the fight against terrorism, contravened Germany's constitution.

The 2008 law required telecommunications companies to retain all citizens' telephone and internet data for six months.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

But the proposal caused outrage among German citizens, concerned at breaches of privacy and civil liberty rights. A complaint was brought by 35,000 citizens, the largest number of plaintiffs ever associated with one case.

The constitutional court found in their favour, ruling that the national law breached Germany's basic law on privacy grounds, although it did not call into question the original EU law, which provides for member states storing telephone and internet data for up to 24 months.

The judges ruled that all data stored until now must be deleted and no more data may be held until the national law is revised to conform with the country's basic law.

They found that the law failed to set the barrier high enough for allowing investigators access to the data and failed to ensure sufficient data encryption should the information be stolen.

"The disputed instructions neither provided a sufficient level of data security, nor sufficiently limited the possible uses of the data," the court said. It also noted that "such retention represents an especially grave intrusion."

Justice minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, one of the plaintiffs as a private citizen, welcomed the decision but interior minister Thomas de Maiziere expressed disappointment and said the government would look to draw up a new law quickly.

"It would be inappropriate to criticize a ruling by the constitutional court, but I have to say that it does not instill happiness," he said, according to Associated Press.

The original EU law was passed after the attacks on New York in September 2001 and was seen as integral to improving security and keeping track of potential militant group activities.

The ruling by Germany's constitutional court has once again highlighted how strongly European citizens feel about their data privacy - something that has been a source of tension with the US keen to access this kind of information in its broad fight against terrorism.

Earlier this month, despite strong lobbying from Washington, the European Parliament voted down an agreement allowing US authorities access to European bank transfers. Following the vote, parliament president Jerzy Buzek said MEPs believed the deal compromised human rights and wanted more civil liberty safeguards.

The next test for EU-US relations in this area is likely to be when MEPs scrutinise the terms of the exchange of detailed air passenger data between the two sides. MEPs in the civil liberties committee will discuss the issue on Wednesday (4 March).

Agenda

Top EU jobs summit dominates This WEEK

A summit in Belgian capital this week will host heads of government and state to discuss top EU institutional posts. But before they meet, the jockeying for the Commission presidency will have already started among the European political groups.

EP parties planning 'coalition agenda' ahead of jobs summit

Political bosses of the European Parliament's groups, hoping to assemble a majority coalition, are eyeing putting forward an political agenda - and possibly a name for the commission top job - before EU leaders gather in Brussels.

MEP blasts Portugal over football whistleblower

Ana Gomes, a socialist MEP from Portugal, has accused national authorities of erring on the side of corruption by detaining a whistleblower who helped expose tax evasion by some of Europe's biggest football stars.

Opinion

Catalonia MEPs are a judicial, not political, issue

Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comin currently live outside Spain. They were prosecuted for the serious crimes, and they have fled justice. It is not possible to judge in absentia in Spain, where the justice system protects the rights of defendants.

News in Brief

  1. EU plans to restructure eurozone bonds
  2. EU ups US imports in beef deal
  3. Unicef: UK among 'least family-friendly' in Europe
  4. Czech PM: No joint 'V4' candidate in commission race
  5. Johnson tops first round to replace May, three eliminated
  6. Bratislava will host new European Labour Authority
  7. Juncker cautions against further climate goals
  8. Study: Counterfeit medicine is a 'growing threat' in EU

Interview

Meet the lawyer taking the EU migration policy to the ICC

Juan Branco is a lawyer and co-author of a legal document submitted to the International Criminal Court (ICC) accusing EU officials and member states of crimes against humanity for their migration policies. "Some people should have to go to prison."

Opinion

Catalonia MEPs are a judicial, not political, issue

Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comin currently live outside Spain. They were prosecuted for the serious crimes, and they have fled justice. It is not possible to judge in absentia in Spain, where the justice system protects the rights of defendants.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  3. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  5. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  6. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  7. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  8. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody

Latest News

  1. 'Russian sources' targeted EU elections with disinformation
  2. Top EU jobs summit dominates This WEEK
  3. EP parties planning 'coalition agenda' ahead of jobs summit
  4. MEP blasts Portugal over football whistleblower
  5. Catalonia MEPs are a judicial, not political, issue
  6. Meet the lawyer taking the EU migration policy to the ICC
  7. Europe's oil supplies 'at risk' after tanker attacks
  8. EU paths fork for Albania and North Macedonia

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us