Internet communications heavily monitored by German intelligence services

Based on two reports of the German Parliamentary Control Panel (PKG), in 2009 and 2010, the Federal Office for Constitutional Protection, the Federal Intelligence Service and the Military Counterintelligence Service have monitored an impressive number of e-mails and other forms of Internet communications.

Although the German Basic Law protects the privacy of postal and telecommunications, Article 10 of the law leaves an open door for surveillance, with the exception in cases of “imminent danger to the free democratic basic order.”

About 7 million (in 2009) and more than 37 million (in 2010) Internet communications were verified, based on a large range of key-words such as “bomb”, “missile” or “nuclear”. However, in spite of these very large numbers, the action seems to have had little result, only 213 cases having led to important information.

In 16 cases, the secret services have used so-called IMSI catchers that serve as eavesdropping devices and are used for interception and tracking of cellular phones.

The Greens and the Federal Democratic Party (FDP) have asked for a strict limitation of the monitoring data, inspections and reform of the intelligence services. “Such a coarse grid as the use of words like ‘bomb’ is apparent ineffective and may actually expose anyone to surveillance,” said Gisela Piltz, spokesperson for the FDP who stated that not only the issue was constitutionally dubious but also that the efficiency of the intelligence services was in question.

Head of the Greens parliamentary group Renate Künast believes that security must serve freedom and not the other way round and that “the security agencies must respect the proportionality principle.”

The Christian Democratic Union (CDU), on the other hand, wants a fast regulation of the Telecommunication Act and welcomes the recent ruling of the Constitutional Court allowing the police to have access to phone and computer data. And it has in view the legal changes that should be brought to deal with the now limited possibilities to get hold of PIN codes and the identification of IP addresses.

Source: EDRI-gram “Internet communications heavily monitored by German intelligence services“ Number, 10.4, February 29, 2012.

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