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Germany party appeals law banning anonymous phone purchases

A member of the the German Pirate Party [NPR backgrounder] filed an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights [official website] challenging a German law that requires pre-paid cell phone purchasers to provide valid identification with each purchase. Patrick Breyer, who filed the suit, believes that the law violates the right to privacy [Reuters report] protected by the European Convention on Human Rights [text]. Breyer said the law should protect anonymity as technology increasingly invades the private lives of individuals. Germany's Federal Constitutional Court ruled in February that the requirement to produce ID did not violate the German Constitution. Denmark and France have similar laws preventing anonymous purchase of the pre-paid phones to prevent their use in criminal activity.

Technological advancements allowing increased access to information have raised legal controversy worldwide as consumers continue to express concerns about privacy. German data privacy authorities last week reopened an investigation into facial recognition software [JURIST report] used by Facebook that automatically recognizes facial features in pictures and "tags" users when others upload photos of them. The Supreme Court of Switzerland announced in June that it ruled partially for Google [JURIST report] in a case over privacy violations through its Street View service. Last August the American Civil Liberties Union announced that their affiliates were sending approximately 375 requests for information in 31 states to reveal how law enforcement uses location data tracking on cell phones [JURIST report]. Smartphones now come with built-in global positioning systems (GPS), allowing users' movements to be tracked by law enforcement agencies, sometimes prior to having the phone in custody.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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