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German Court Abolishes German Snooping Law 201

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the a-few-governmental-officials-with-good-sense-left dept.
Robert writes to mention that Germany's highest court has imposed limitations on the amount of spying governmental bodies can do on a suspect's computer. The ruling comes in response to a state law on North Rhine Westphalia that had allowed secret services to peer into a citizen's computer. "Court President Hans-Juergen Papier said that using such software contravened rights enshrined in Germany's constitution, adding that the decision would serve as a precedent across the country. The ruling emphasized that cyber spying by the authorities would have to receive the permission of a judge. The German government has described cyber spying as a vital tool in fighting terrorism."
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German Court Abolishes German Snooping Law

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  • Crazy World (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tritonman (998572) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @03:59PM (#22577636)
    What a crazy world where Germany knows more about freedom than America.
    • by themushroom (197365) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @04:09PM (#22577778) Homepage
      Germany had a mad dictator at one time stomping on personal freedoms, and the country learned from that about how democracy and freedom should work. The country has pledged never to let that crap happen again.

      America will pick that lesson up in, oh, about eleven months or so if we're lucky. You don't know what you've got until it's gone.
      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        Yeah. Except they can't get video games with blood or Nazis in them. In some ways they have more freedom, in other ways they have less. Just like almost every other country.
        • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

          by LingNoi (1066278)
          and if you're a Crytek employee you get a shotgun up your nose with a screaming German police officer on the other side.. [gamepolitics.com]

          When I tell people in Germany what I do for a living, they usually react with a mixture of pity and disgust, like I had admitted to them I was a male prostitute.

          For computer games both the press and public are histrionic, and the politicians are keen to tap into every reactionary outrage...

          Yeah... sounds like a great place to live..

        • by rtb61 (674572)
          One wonders, whether the German government would be better off actively trying to rebrand the symbol to it's original use http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swastika [wikipedia.org] rather than trying to ban it. It is really difficult to use symbols of racism and totalitarianism when you can associate with their original, non 'pure', non violent intent.

          The reality is, all the privacy invasive spying has nothing to do with the government controlling and monitoring the people, but has everything to do with a single political par

          • by mpe (36238)
            One wonders, whether the German government would be better off actively trying to rebrand the symbol to it's original use http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swastika [wikipedia.org] rather than trying to ban it.

            Especially given that there are plenty of Swastikas which look nothing like that used by the Nazis.

            It is really difficult to use symbols of racism and totalitarianism when you can associate with their original, non 'pure', non violent intent.

            Even the Nazi flag is associated with a the losing side of a war 60 odd yea
      • by sm62704 (957197) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @04:34PM (#22578122) Journal
        You don't know what you've got until it's gone.

        True that! Good riddance to my ex-wife!
      • by kellyb9 (954229)
        I love the fact that everyone plainly points the finger at Bush as the culprit. Speaking of Hitler, I believe he did this with the Jews. You find one person or subdivision of society to blame for everything. I, for one, blame the entire legislative branch for everything that has taken place over the past 8 years, and unfortunantly, they'll still be around... long after Bush. Instead of blaming the person who used the power he was alotted, maybe YOU should blame the people who gave him that power.
      • See, it works! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by telso (924323) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @06:50PM (#22580496)
        America had a mad dictator [wikipedia.org] at one time stomping on personal freedoms, and the country learned from that about how democracy and freedom should work. The country has pledged never to let that crap happen again.

        There, fixed that for you.
        • by Zoxed (676559)
          America has a mad dictator [wikipedia.org] who is stomping on personal freedoms, and the rest of the world hopes that the country will learn from that about how democracy and freedom should work.They hope that the country will pledge never to let that crap happen again.

          There, fixed that for you.
      • by nguy (1207026)
        and the country learned from that about how democracy and freedom should work

        Germany learned from it because the victors required it, and the German democratic system was created under supervision of the victors.

        The country has pledged never to let that crap happen again.

        Well, in the 19th century, Germans were advocating freedom, tolerance, and liberty, but that didn't keep them from electing Hitler in the 1930's.
      • by mpe (36238)
        Germany had a mad dictator at one time stomping on personal freedoms,

        Something which happened in fairly recent history (i.e. people from that time are still alive) and was followed by the country being occupied by various foreign armies.

        and the country learned from that about how democracy and freedom should work.

        The same applies to quite a few other countries, notably in Central and South America.

        The country has pledged never to let that crap happen again.

        Not without a fight at least.

        America wi
    • Except the whole free speech thing regarding neo-nazis.
      • Re:Crazy World (Score:5, Informative)

        by Knuckles (8964) <`knuckles' `at' `dantian.org'> on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @05:07PM (#22578736)
        the whole free speech thing regarding neo-nazis

        A few things to consider::

        These laws stem from the post-war time, and while I am fuzzy on the details in Germany, I would imagine that the US had a bigger hand in creating these (IMHO just) laws than the locals, who would have preferred to ignore the whole unhappy Holocaust incident. I certainly was that way in my home country, Austria. Post-war, these laws also had practical application, you really couldn't have Nazi ex-leaders clamoring for support in the streets. (I would think the US Army sees it similarly in Iraq right now, probably somewhat less appropriately.)

        Later, the rights of the Jews and other survivors of the Nazi atrocities had to be considered, of whom many still lived in Germany and Austria, though sadly (but understandably) many chose to stay the hell away -- Germany and Austria not exactly inviting them back, either. It's kind of hard to deal with random (or not so random) Germans/Austrians now living in your house, from which the Nazis had dragged you away into camps in the middle of the night. Those who chose to stay or come back to contribute to the Nazis' successor states' economic and moral resurrection had every right not to be subjugated to dribbling Nazis and neo-nazis in the streets and on the media, denying the Holocaust, etc. In any case, the Nazis had certainly forfeited their right to free speech, don't you think?

        The situation could change now and I am pretty sure that over a number of years, Germany would come to the conclusion that this exception should be removed. However, pretty strong neonazi parties have managed to enter several federal states' governments. These currently do not form a credible political force but are disturbing nonetheless, especially because their success clusters around (but is not strictly exclusive to) the post-GDR eastern federal states. Consequently, this pending discussion in Germany (and Austria) is delayed. In any case, IMHO the German neonazis also have forfeited their free speech rights, through voluntary association with mass murderers and through approx. 70 court-ruled violent crimes per year against foreigners, punks, leftists, jews, etc., the number of reported and unreported cases of course much much higher (dunno the numbers for Austria right now, I'd figure they are way lower per capita).
        • ... certainly was that way in my home country, Austria ...

          Was to make the world believe that Adolf Hitler was German, while Ludwig Van Beethoven was Austrian...

          • by Knuckles (8964)
            What are you trying to tell me? For one, I think I made it clear that I don't condone that. And actually being Austrian (are you?), I don't think you can beat me in a tournament of citing despicable Austrian traits ;)
    • by rev_sanchez (691443) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @04:39PM (#22578224)
      I've seen what Germans do with their computers on the internet. I'm surprised they had to make their law enforcement bodies stop spying on those things. I'd treat a German crime suspect's computer like a duffel bag of goatse Polaroids.
  • by Channard (693317) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @03:59PM (#22577638) Journal
    .. had peaked with closing the tax loophole that lets Uwe Boll make films, they go and do this. Where will it all end?
  • Why?!? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by F-3582 (996772) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @04:01PM (#22577676)
    Why has a Supreme Court to tell politicians that their laws are against the constitution? Wasn't that obvious in the first place?

    Besides, this is not the first law being overturned for human rights reasons. The German Secretary of Defense had passed a law to grant the military the right to shoot down a high-jacked aeroplane full of civilians.

    It seems like our politicians have forgotten how our last dictator (aka unser Führer) became as powerful as he did: By passing laws to abolish human rights under the coat of stabilizing the country. Only did he have the Supreme Court on HIS side.
    • Re:Why?!? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Peter Trepan (572016) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @04:17PM (#22577920)

      Why has a Supreme Court to tell politicians that their laws are against the constitution?

      For the same reason we need policemen to remind thieves that larceny is illegal.

    • Why has a Supreme Court to tell politicians that their laws are against the constitution? Wasn't that obvious in the first place?
      Maybe because it's their job? They are not called the "federal constitutional court" (Bundesverfassungsgericht) for nothing.
      • by F-3582 (996772)
        Thanks for asking my rhetorical question ;)

        My point is: Why does every minister of any Departement (and especially our good old Wolfgang Schäuble) feel the urge of having to test the boundaries of our constitution? Jumping the bandwagon of paranoid countries giving up human rights for a false feeling of security is soooooo yesterday.
        • Well, I personally agree that Schäuble (and before him Otto Schily, cynically given his personal history) are moving the German anti-terror effort into a direction I don't agree with.

          Having said that, the BVerfG's verdict shows once again that the checks and balances work: The politicians do what (they think) the people want, and the judiciary stop them if they overstep the boundaries the constitutional council set upon this society. For someone like me who doesn't feel his political views well repre
  • by gnick (1211984) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @04:03PM (#22577702) Homepage
    Also interesting is the article linked in TFA [bbc.co.uk] which gives an overview of domestic spying in Germany, Italy, the UK, and Greece, France, and Denmark.

    I have newfound respect for the Greeks.
  • Truly - simple common sense, which seems to be rather un-common between the Rio Grande and the 49th parallel for the past 8 years...

    RS

    • by sm62704 (957197)
      The late great Walt Kelly said it best (through Pogo of course)- "Common sense ain't so common."
  • Well, actually... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @04:11PM (#22577822)
    ... that means they kinda legalized it (with said limitations) for all states, when it was illegal (in all states but NRW) before this ruling. The police searching the home of suspects is "limited" by pretty much the same rules (permission by a judge etc.) - and is generally permitted everytime the state attorney asks nicely. The judges often don't even really read the request before signing it off.

    Plus: in case of raiding your appartment, you instantly know the Police have been there (they have to do it in your presence, or in the presence of an independent witness, plus your appartment is in obvious disarray) - while you have no idea that said trojan (yes, that's what even the government calls it) has been installed on your Computer.

    Surveillance state, here we come!
    • by matt4077 (581118)
      They didn't legalize it. To be legal, there needs to be a law allowing it. They struck down the first such law allowing it in one state, NRW. So right now it's not legal anywhere. However, based on the ruling, the federal gov. is expected to pass a law soon, legalizing it everywhere. The ruling did however put hard restrictions on any such law.
  • by Yokaze (70883) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @04:14PM (#22577868)
    > The ruling emphasized that cyber spying by the authorities would have to receive the permission of a judge.

    I'd say, that is a given. More importantly, the ruling states that such measures are only allowed, if there is a concrete and imminent threat of life or the foundations of the state.
  • by stevedcc (1000313) * on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @04:16PM (#22577898)

    1) Germany doesn't have case law - there's no such thing as a precedent under German Law. This court's job is to rule on the legality of laws; the court can interpret how the law should be applied, then that becomes the law: another interpretation can't arise from another court

    2) This is Germany's Constitutional court - there's no higher or lower instance for this type of law.

    IANAL etc.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by teslar (706653)

      This court's job is to rule on the legality of laws
      Just nitpicking... this court's job is to rule on the constitutionality of laws. A law is not legal or illegal, it is constitutional or unconstitutional.
    • by Hatta (162192)
      ?1) Germany doesn't have case law - there's no such thing as a precedent under German Law.

      Ok.

      the court can interpret how the law should be applied, then that becomes the law: another interpretation can't arise from another court,

      Uh, what? Isn't that setting precedent?
  • My take on this. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by erlehmann (1045500) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @04:58PM (#22578556)
    Whenever a law is found unconstitutional, each and every politician who voted for it should have his right revoked to be part of the parliament and never be able to be a candidate in any election again.
    • Whenever a law is found unconstitutional, each and every politician who voted for it should have his right revoked to be part of the parliament and never be able to be a candidate in any election again.

      But, then they wouldn't be able to pass as many laws. They would have to read the full text of the bills in detail and study the legal and constitutional aspects of what they are voting for. They would have to openly discuss the substance of the bill, rather than relying on bullshit and catchy phrases. Ma

    • Whenever a law is found unconstitutional, each and every politician who voted for it should have his right revoked to be part of the parliament and never be able to be a candidate in any election again.

      Oh come on.

      Parliament has been elected by the people. They are the highest power[1] in Germany, more powerful even than the federal chancellor and the federal president. You want to give a bunch of judges that have not been directly elected by the populace the power to dissolve parliament? (That's what yo

    • by ppanon (16583)
      Nah, all it means is that you would eventually wind up with a corrupt (appointed) court. Quid custodiet ipsos custodes? Dishonest people will find ways to corrupt any power structure.
      The appointment of Samuel Alito to the US Supreme Court is a prime example. The dismissal of the Pakistani Supreme Court can be interpreted as another (less subtle and less successful) form.

      The Supreme Court is a court of last recourse and you want to keep it that way. If it had the power of revoking the ability of politicians
      • by ppanon (16583)
        Or to put it another way, what the GP asked for, politicians being barred from public office for writing bad legislation would be the ultimate nanny state. Effectively the populace would be abdicating its responsibility for electing responsible representatives and placing it in the hands of the supreme court. That results in a dangerous concentration of power and bodes ill for the future of such a nation.
  • by burni (930725) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @05:00PM (#22578604)
    This was a judgement on behalf of a law of one of germanys federal states(1)

    this law was made for giving the state agency "Landesverfassungsschutz"(2)  the ability to install such software, this law was ruled unconstitional.

    But it's not the method itself, which was ruled unconstitutional, but the ruling in its details just restricts future federal laws(3).

    The trojan software can now only be installed under the condition a judge decides to do so,
    and this also only on the following conditions

    - threat to human life ( abduction, murder )
    - threat to the federal republic of germany ( terrorism )

    If information and data is gathered containing sensitive private information,
    this data must be delete just in time and shall not be brought to court under any circumstances,
    this includes the possesion of childpornography.

    (1) similar to the US germany consists as a federal system, including 16 states which form the federal republic of germany

    (2) a like homeland security such way for a single state in the federation,
    germany also has a federal agency which coordinates the work of the state agencies

    (3) which are planned by the ministry of internal afairs with it's minister Wolfgang Schaeuble
    "BKA-Gesetz" (BKA similar to the FBI)
  • German Chaos Computer Club does a radio show (in german) right now (22:00 GMT+1) about.

    Infos (and later podcast download):
    http://chaosradio.ccc.de/cr132.html [chaosradio.ccc.de]

    Streams:
    * MP3 128kBit/s VBR Joint Stereo
    o http://stream.xenim.de:8000/cr_128k_vbr.mp3 [xenim.de]
    o http://streams.xenim.de:8000/cr_128k_vbr.mp3.m3u [xenim.de]

    * OGG 56kBit/s VBR
  • by vorlich (972710) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @05:52PM (#22579470) Homepage Journal
    Scottish Bavarian ... I have mentioned on a number of occasions that the constitution of the Bundesrepublik is very similar to the US constitution but at least 27 pages longer and offering even greater protection to the rights of the individual.

    Now the millstones of the German legal system grind exceedingly slower than those of the UK or the US and rights are commonly regarded as having greater weight post court ruling (for anthropological reasons that are too long to repeat) but grind they do and once the grinding is done, the constitution rules.

    The Germans are a people who are really good at learning from past mistakes (the foundation of their superb engineering skills) and the constitution is modelled as the absolute antithesis to lawlessness of that brief reign of the National Socialists.

    As for the church tax (Kirchensteuer) contrary to the propaganda of amongst others, the Scientologists, that is a relic of the historical development of the Principalities post Holy Roman Empire when the Princes were responsible for the care and maintenance of the Catholic Church - which was the state religion until Martin Luther's protestant revolution. You can opt out of the tax by completing a form at the Rathaus - there is no need to lie.

    When viewed properly from the wide angled lens of history, Germany is an example of a nation that evolved into a very liberal and tolerant society of highly cultured citizens (sometimes to the point of affectatiousness it is true - but you know every family has its oddballs) and every level of society is affected by this native tolerance. So when you read other posts here that mention Adolf, police states, restriction of the rights of the individual - take it from a native Auslander - it is merely the stereotypical FUD we often see here.

    I know, humour gets you more mod points but sometimes even I have to be serious.
  • It is my understanding that the Trojan snooping software would only run on MS Windows, but since we all know that terrorists, anti-capitalists and all other enemies of the state run deviant operating systems, like GNU/Linux, the state would not find anything useful anyway :-)

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