German government adopts data retention proposal

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– New law will allow phone and Internet data to be held for 10 weeks

BERLIN – The German federal government on Wednesday adopted proposals to force telecom companies to retain customers’ phone and Internet data for 10 weeks.

In a statement, the Justice Ministry said the draft law would require firms to keep details on the time and duration of telephone calls, location data and Internet protocol addresses to identify web users.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas said the proposed legislation provided a balance between protecting freedoms and security interests. “We will protect the private sphere,” he said in the statement. “The contents of any communication will not be stored.”

He also promised the data would not be used to create personal profiles to track individual’s movements.

“The email traffic of users will not be stored,” Maas added. “We have also shortened the storage period of the retained data and restricted access to this.”

However, opposition parties sharply criticized the planned law as a step towards a “total surveillance state”.

In a statement, the Left Party’s deputy leader Jan Korte described the proposal as a “dark day for our freedoms and constitutional rights” and warned that stored data could be accessed by criminals.

“[The] NSA scandal clearly shows that stored data cannot be completely protected from being accessed by secret services or criminal hackers,” Korte said. “The best solution for data protection is avoiding data retention.”

Green Party lawmaker Renate Kunast, chairwoman of parliament’s legal affairs committee, said the draft included would infringe constitutional rights. “When people have to assume that they will continuously be under surveillance, then freedoms and personality development would simply go away,” she told public broadcaster ARD.

Germany’s previous data retention law was annulled by the Constitutional Court in 2010 over privacy infringement. The 2007 legislation had obliged telecom companies to store customers’ data for six months.

As well as cutting the retention period, the new legislation will require the security services to obtain court permission to examine data. Access to the communications of journalists, lawyers and doctors will be barred.

Parliament will vote on the proposal next month and the coalition government’s majority is likely to pass the legislation.

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