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German court rejects police data snooping store

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Germany's High Court has told police and secret services that they must stop storing email and telephone data and delete information already collected.

The storage of six months' worth of German comms data for police and anti-terrorism purposes was required by a European Union directive.

Opponents of the snooping measure hoped the court would rule the law was unconstitutional, but instead the court found that data was not properly protected and that authorities were not sufficiently clear as to why they needed it.

The court also ruled that Germany's data protection commissioner should be involved in how the data was dealt with.

The case was sparked by a record number of complaints - 35,000 people including Germany's Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger. East Germany was famously one of the world's most-spied upon nations, and it seems some kind of a backlash is now in progress.

The decision could drive a further wedge between European and US data collection policies and attitudes. The EU has already ended blanket rights for US authorities to look at our bank accounts - the SWIFT agreement currently needs renegotiating.

There have even been rows over Passenger Name Records - information required by US authorities before anyone can fly into the country.

More broadly Google is still working to make its Street View service acceptable to German sensibilities, the European Commission has told social networks to work harder to protect children's privacy.

Information Commissioner Viviane Reding damned a more general erosion of privacy pushed by the likes of Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and Phorm. She also criticised the UK's rushed introduction of body scanners.

The verdict also raises more questions for the Home Office which is spending £2bn on upgrading its interception and storage systems for monitoring UK citizens emails and phone calls.

There's more from Der Spiegel here.®

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