Friday

16th Nov 2018

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).

No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt

British PM Theresa May battles for survival as she faces calls for her resignation and the rebellion of several ministers who resigned over the draft Brexit deal - which the EU is preparing to sign later this month.

Analysis

Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)

The main points of the Brexit withdrawal deal between London and Brussels dissected. Although the EU is preparing to sign the agreement, the UK government has been rocked by resignations since its publication less than 24 hours ago.

Opinion

US steps in to clean up Cyprus

Cyprus has overlooked undertakings on bank probity made to the EU in the context of the 2013 bailout - but it might prove harder to get the US off its back.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel urged Romania not to move embassy to Jerusalem
  2. Protesters call for Czech leader to step down
  3. Former German chancellor labelled 'enemy' of Ukraine
  4. French lead opposition to Brexit deal on fisheries
  5. Private accounts of Danske Bank employees investigated
  6. UK's May defends Brexit deal to MPs, after ministers resign
  7. Brexit MP calls for 'no confidence' vote on May
  8. Denmark blocks Tanzania aid over homophobic crackdown

Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot

Authorities in Budapest confirmed the former prime minister of Macedonia, fleeing a jail sentence in his own country, has filed for asylum. Despite Hungary's strict asylum laws, the pro-Kremlin politician was not turned away.

Merkel calls for 'real, true' EU army

Angela Merkel's much-anticipated speech to the European Parliament was brief and to the point. Her message: Europe is alone in the world, the EU should be more united on defence, but not on the economy.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. How the EU commission got tunnel vision on self-driving cars
  2. No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt
  3. Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)
  4. Romania heaps scorn on 'revolting' EU criticism
  5. US steps in to clean up Cyprus
  6. 'Decisive progress' on Brexit as British cabinet backs deal
  7. Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot
  8. How the 'EU's Bank' fails to raise the bar on accountability

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us