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Germany high court overturns data retention law

[JURIST] Germany's Federal Constitutional Court [official website, in German] on Tuesday overturned [judgment text, in German] a law requiring telecommunications providers to store information on telephone calls, e-mails, and Internet use for six months for use in possible terrorism investigations, citing privacy issues. The court found [press release, in German] that Section 113 of the Telecommunications Act violates the privacy of German citizens and that the law lacks the controls to ensure the data is secure and properly utilized. The court also ruled that all stored data must be immediately deleted. The law was passed in response to a 2006 European Union (EU) directive [text, PDF] requiring the retention of telephone and e-mail records for use in terrorism investigations. The court, however, stated that the German law exceeded the requirements [Spiegel report] put forth by the EU. The law has been widely criticized in Germany [AP report], with nearly 35,000 Germans filing complaints regarding the law with the court.

The balancing of telecommunications monitoring for security purposes and privacy concerns has been a struggle post 9/11 in both Europe and the US. In January, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official websites] are not required to confirm or deny the existence of electronic surveillance records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text]. In April, the DOJ announced that it had limited [JURIST report] the NSA's electronic surveillance, but maintained that the information being received was still important. In 2006, it was revealed that the NSA [JURIST report] was collecting phone records from major telephone companies to study the calling patterns of millions of Americans in an effort to detect terrorist activity.

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