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(Mar 02, 2008) On February 27, 2008, the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany issued a decision on online searches of personal computers by the intelligence agencies (Docket No. 1 BvR 595/07, Federal Constitutional Court official Web site. The decision invalidated various provisions of the Act on Domestic Intelligence Agency of the State of North-Rhine Westphalia that were introduced in December 2006 and allowed the domestic intelligence agency of the state to infiltrate personal computers of individuals and store the data from the computers' hard drives (Gesetz zur Änderung des Verfassungsschutzes in Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dec. 20, 2006, GESETZ- UND VERORDNUNGSBLATT FÜR DAS LAND NORDRHEIN-WESTFALEN [Official Gazette of the State of North-Rhine Westphalia] at 620). Moreover, the decision appears to set restrictive standards for the laws on online searches that other German states and the German federation had been planning to enact (H. Jess, Länder haben wenig Lust auf Online-Razzien, FINANCIAL TIMES DEUTSCHLAND, Nov. 29, 2008, at 11, Lexis/Nexis, News Library/Zeitng File).

The decision has not prohibited the online collection of data by intelligence services from personal computers of individuals, but it has set high hurdles for such searches. The decision appears to create a constitutional right guaranteeing the integrity and confidentiality of information technology systems, and this makes online searches of personal computers and cell phones permissible only in extremely serious situations and under rigorous judicial scrutiny. According to these standards, it might be necessary for secretly retrieved online data to be subjected to judicial scrutiny to sort out and erase data belonging to the private sphere of the individual before the remaining data could be passed on to intelligence agencies.

Author: Edith Palmer More by this author
Topic: Communications More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Germany More about this jurisdiction

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Last updated: 03/02/2008