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German court rules email blocking 'illegal'

No selective filtering allowed

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Selectively filtering out emails of a specific sender may constitute an offence, the Higher Regional Court (OLG) in Karlsruhe ruled on Monday.

Two years ago a university in Baden-Württemberg blocked the email of a former employee who left after a quarrel with his peers, but continued to stay in touch with scientists and friends.

His former peers decided to filter out every message in which his name was mentioned without informing the ex-employee or his friends.

The Higher Regional Court now has ruled that blocking email by content is unlawful as it is considered confidential in German law. Blocking is only allowed when, say, a viral attack is imminent.

The implications of the ruling aren't yet fully clear. Whether the Higher Regional Court has unintentionally legalised spam (which frequently is filtered by content) remains to be seen. ®

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