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Data Retention: NGOs call on German Minsters to Stop Mass Surveillance

European Parliament Freedom, democracy and transparency Press releases

In an open letter to the German Conference of Interior Ministers 13 organisations call for an end to mass data retention of citizen‘s connection and location data in Germany and the EU. Patrick Breyer, Member of the European Parliament (Pirate Party/Greens/EFA group) and digital rights activist comments:

„The large-scale collection of information on day-to-day communication and location data of innocent citizens is an unprecedented attack on our right to privacy. This is the most intrusive method of the mass surveillance. For effective child protection we need child protection officers, child protection programme as well as competent and fast investigations – mass surveillance is not the solution. The steady violation of fundamental rights through the continuation of data retention policies, governmental pressure on judges and ignoring facts is an attack on the rule of law, which we need to stop.“

Child protection instead of mass surveillance

In the run-up to the German conference, calls for data retention have been made in connection with child protection. However, mass surveillance of millions of innocent people is not the answer.
In January 2022 the German government published statistical data of the Federal Criminal Police Office, according to which only 3% of all child pornography investigations in 2017 to 2021 could not be further prosecuted due to the lack of records on IP addresses. In Germany no data retention legislation is being applied. MEP Patrick Breyer commented in March 2022: “Instead of mass surveillance, we need targeted investigation, protection and prevention strategies in schools, church institutions etc.” In April 2022, gegen-missbrauch e.V. (a German association for victims, partners and opponents of child sexual abuse) criticised the call for data retention: “(…) the problem is not [data retention], but that the investigating authorities are still in the 19th century in terms of staff and equipment, even though the perpetrators are in the year 2022”.

Data retention affects innocent citizens

The systematic bulk storage of connection and location data allows for the creation of extensive movement and behaviour profiles, which predominantly affect innocent citizens. In a legal opinion from April 2022, former EU judge Prof. Dr. iur. Vilenas Vadapalas states that national security is no free ride for mass surveillance and that even “targeted data retention” in very large and undefined geographical areas is contrary to fundamental rights. In a statement on the new Belgian draft law on data retention, Patrick Breyer criticised, among other things, the proposed “targeted data retention”. This form of data retention is also proposed in a leaked European Commission working paper from June 2021, which also reveals plans for suspicionless and blanket IP data retention.

Germany‘s Federal Minister of Justice promised on Twitter: „We will put an end to the current practice of data retention as permitted by German law, as we consider it to be a disproportionate encroachment on fundamental rights.“

Further information on the topic of data retention is provided on Breyer’s homepage.