Dark Days for Germany
Yesterday, on the historically significant November 9, the German government approved a law (PDF, 1,999 KB) that requires telecommunications providers to retain all customer communication data for a period of six months, and allows authorities to gain access to stored communications including telephone calls, text messages, and faxes. The law has been approved without considering arguments and resistance from many organizations and individuals, and without taking into account numerous studies that question the usefulness of such a law.
While the Federal President, Horst Köhler, as well as the Federal Constitutional Court might still prevent the new law from being passed, it suspects every German citizen to be a criminal, and cuts their civil rights.
The consequences are far-reaching, and the development raises important questions: What’s next? Where will this end?
There are so many things to be noted and alarmed about that the impact of this blind (and not popular) act is so big, it means the darkest chapter of Germany’s post-war history. Who doubts that should ask themselves the above question again: Where will this end? Surveillance does not prevent anything and, quoting Benjamin Franklin, “those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
My fellow countrymen might want use their remaining rights (as long as the Grundgesetz exists) and protest against the new law as well as this development:
- Use the thing on top of your shoulders and open your mouth;
- join data retention initiatives and law suits;
- complain to the government parties CDU, CSU, and SPD;
- go to demonstrations and stand up for the rights of the German people;
- vote, and reconsider your options (I left the CDU in September and now sympathize with the FDP);
- use other legal steps to show your concerns;
- protect your personal data.
Let’s do something to prevent this and other horror scenarios.
My involvement in a few projects doesn’t permit a high post frequency right now but I’ll continue to write regularly, maybe on a bi-weekly to monthly basis. The current political development is more important than any problem we face in professional web design though. We need to take action.
I’m Jens, and I’m an engineering lead and author. I’ve worked as a technical lead for Google, I’m close to W3C and WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly. I love trying things, sometimes including philosophy, art, and adventure. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.
If you have a question or suggestion about what I write, please leave a comment (if available) or a message. Thank you!
Good piece of writing. This kind of knee-jerk reaction to imaginary and perceived threats is becoming all to common. In wartime such measures are understandable (though still not warranted)–but in the 21st century!
Even “pacifist” Japan is now resorting to finger-printing and photographing all foreign visitors, and even long time residents who re-enter the country. Whatever next? Bar-coded at birth, no doubt….
Thank you for this article, Jens. It would be great if more of the IT “star publishers” would use their popularity and their influence in the way you do and show that there is real world beyond CSS hacks and W3C standards!
Allow me to add one point of concern to the things you mention in your article that has been totally neglected so far: even provided that the state authorities do not and never will misuse the stored data there is another risk, namely that of the data being stolen by criminals or sold by corrupt officials to companies or criminals.
Remembering this year’s “hacker attacks” against servers and workstations of the German adminstration one can suspect that the data collected about everyone of us will not be very save. Especially because this year’s attacks were not very sophisticated at all but nevertheless successful!
And this week the magazine “Spiegel” reported cases of highly confidential data collected by the police about left-wing activists having been passed to neonazis by corrupt officials.
So: how do the authorities want to protect our data?
In Sweden we are moving in the same direction. All we can hope for now is that Ireland is successful in their case of reporting the illegal process of the directive to the European Court of Justice.
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