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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Germany Rejects Phone/E-mail User Data Colletion on Privacy Grounds

In the spirit of the conversation desired by the sponsors of the failed Blog Control Acts, South Dakota House Bills 1277 and 1278, I offer another international note on online privacy:

Rep. Noel Hamiel's effort to muzzle the South Dakota blogosphere would have required anyone maintaining a blog to keep records of who visited and commented on the website. The German Federal Constitution Court has declared that sort of record-keeping a violation of privacy:

The highest court in Germany has suspended a controversial law in Europe requiring phone and e-mail providers to hold customer data for six months in case it's needed by law enforcement.

Germany's Federal Constitution Court called the law "inadmissable" and ruled that changes would be needed to limit its scope, according to a story in Spiegel Online. The court felt that the data was not properly secured or protected and that its use had not been made clear [Lance Whitney, "German court rules against data retention policy," CNet News, 2010.03.02].

The court ordered immediate deletion of all user data collected under the law.The court did not overturn the law completely, but it did say that if the government is going to mandate the collection of such data, the government must specify how that data is going to be used (no fishing expeditions allowed!) and establish very tight security to ensure that data is not used for any other purposes. Keep those standards in mind, South Dakota legislators, the next time you try to dragoon citizens into being online speech cops.

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