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German privacy activists cry foul over data retention law

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Privacy activists have filed a constitutional complaint against Germany's data retention laws.

The objection against the German Telecomms Data Retention Act was filed in federal court on Monday by German privacy group Arbeitskreis Vorratsdatenspeicherung (Working Group on Data Retention). The group said 30,000 people have signed the objection against laws that mean German telecoms carriers are obliged to keep details of internet usage and phone call records for up to two years. The 150-page complaint calls on the court to suspend the law on the grounds of "apparent unconstitutionality".

Alongside its legal moves, Arbeitskreis Vorratsdatenspeicherung has published guidelines and recommendations designed to "safeguard individuals" against the obligatory logging of all telecommunications traffic. Arbeitskreis Vorratsdatenspeicherung argues that the data retention law treats all citizens as potential terrorists or delinquents. "The pervasive logging of communication patterns without reasonable suspicion resembled a serious encroachment upon the basic values of constitutional legality," it said.

Organisations and individuals that rely on confidentiality to do their work - lawyers, journalists and even crisis lines - are deprived of free and open communication because of the data logging, the group claims.

Governments across Europe brought in the measures, which backers argue are necessary in the fight against terrorism and organised crime. Critics argue blanket data retention is disproportionate.

Arbeitskreis Vorratsdatenspeicherung's objections are explained in greater depth here (in German). The group's stance is backed by 47 German non-governmental organisations. ®

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