Dark Days for Germany
Post from November 10, 2007 (↻ June 12, 2021), filed under Everything Else.
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 of many organizations and individuals, and without taking into account numerous studies that question the usefulness of the law.
While the Federal President, Horst Köhler, as well as the Federal Constitutional Court might still prevent the new law to become legally binding, it effectively suspects every German citizen to be a criminal or terrorist, at the same time cutting civil rights, including the right for privacy.
The consequences will be farreaching, and the development raises important questions, including: Where will this end?
The next measures may include the assessment of data security as spoofing, denouncing concerned citizens as criminals and terror suspects who may be arrested without a judicial decision, punishing unimportant slips like accidentally clicking on the “wrong” search result, maybe even snooping population groups like our apparent role model, the US government, illustrated by intending to map muslims (doesn’t this remind us of something?). Then there is a strong probability of abuse, not only referring to international agreements that will allow for data exchange, but rather referring to “true” criminals who could access the to-be-expected, enormous collections of data.
There are so many other things to be noted, whereas the impact of such a blind (but not populistic) act is so big that it would mean the darkest chapter in Germany’s post-war history. Those people who doubt that should just ask themselves the above question again, where will this stop? Surveillance does not prevent anything; citing 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 to consider using their remaining rights (as long as the Grundgesetz exists) and protesting against the new law as well as the development in general:
- 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 if you don’t already do, 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.
Just do something to prevent all the looming 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 Oliver Meiert, and I’m an engineering manager and author. I’ve worked as a technical lead for Google, I’m close to the W3C and the WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly. Other than that, 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 questions or suggestions about what I write, please leave a comment (if available) or a message.
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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Perhaps my most comprehensive book: The Web Development Glossary (2020). With explanations and definitions for literally thousands of terms from Web Development and related fields, building on Wikipedia as well as the MDN Web Docs. Available at Apple Books, Kobo, Google Play Books, and Leanpub.