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German spooks chastised for mass surveillance

privacy

A German court has reprimanded the Federal Intelligence Service for mass surveillance which violates Basic Law and the privacy rights of its citizens.

For a country which usually flies the banner of privacy rights, some might be surprised by the German intelligence services, Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), lurching beyond the line of acceptability. However, once again it appears political rhetoric is a distraction technique as the spooks get their hands caught in the cookie jar.

“Thanks to the chief legal counsel, Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte (GFF), this a major victory for global civil liberties, but especially those that live and work in Europe,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said.

“Many will now be protected after lacklustre 2016 surveillance reforms continued to authorize the surveillance on EU states and institutions for the purpose of ‘foreign policy and security’ and permitted the BND to collaborate with the NSA.”

The EFF is of course celebrating this decision, though there are numerous other privacy advocates who have vocalised their pleasure.

The issue which is at the heart of this decision is one of unsupervised and unrestricted collection of data. Thanks to an amended version of certain legislation in 2016, telcos and intelligence agencies would monitor communications traffic running through Germany, collecting and analysing any information using keywords.

According to the complainants, data relating to German nationals or persons within Germany must be separated from the other data and deleted prior to any further analysis. Another complaint was the unrestricted nature of the data collection. Content-related keywords that do not target specific individuals is contrary to what would be deemed acceptable in the international regulatory community.

In the ruling from the German courts, the privacy rights of the German constitution also protects foreigners in other countries as well as German nationals, while the wide-reaching and unencumbered nature of data collection from the intelligence services was well beyond its jurisdiction, especially in foreign countries. No intelligence agency should be given complete freedom to operate, such is the powers which are granted to authorities today.


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