Opponents file suit against German use of phone data

1st January 2008, Comments 0 comments

German leftists and liberals who oppose police access to telecommunications records demonstrated and said they had filed a petition by 30,000 people for a constitutional-court review of the practice.

1 January 2008

Hamburg (dpa) - German leftists and liberals who oppose police access to telecommunications records demonstrated Monday and said they had filed a petition by 30,000 people for a constitutional-court review of the practice.

The protests were held a day before new legislation comes into force requiring companies to retain records for six months of the to and from addresses of e-mail, time spent on the internet and phone numbers dialled by customers.

Police require a judicial warrant to search the files during inquiries into terrorism and serious crime.

Libertarian groups, citing the telephone snooping in totalitarian states, angrily opposed the data-retention legislation when it was passed. Unlike many countries, Germany has not let police use such data for decades.

At a rally Monday in the northern city of Hamburg, opponents held a mock funeral for "the death of privacy." Police said the demonstration by 200 people passed off without violence. Organizers claimed 500 attended.

In the southern justice capital of Karlsruhe, the Working Party on Data Retention filed for an urgent injunction to stop the legislation on the grounds that it was "obviously unconstitutional."

They said the 150-page application against "surveillance without suspicion" was initially by eight people, but was backed by 30,000 who had signed petitions.

Their names would be joined to the suit after processing by a Berlin law office, making it the largest such appeal in modern German history.

"We are hoping for a quick ruling," said lawyer Meinhard Starostik leading the group. But a court spokesman said judges would not sit on the case Monday.

The activists said they would also seek to overturn the March 2006 European Union data-retention directive that required Germany to pass the legislation.

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