(Eng.) State control over communication in Germany?

Robert (101607.2566@CompuServe.COM)
13 Jul 96 17:33:04 EDT


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A-Infos EXTRA
Nr. 1/7 1996

State control over communication in Germany?
============================================

On friday, the 5th of July the german Bundesrat voted for a
telecommunicationsbill designed by CDU/CSU (christian democrats), FDP (liberals)
and SPD (social democrats). Critics maintain that the bill, which should
regulate the privatisation of the telephone-network until the end of 1997,
contains passages that allows for an uncontrollable surveillance of users by
state officials.

The reason for the critique is paragraph 87 of the bill which binds
telecommunicationsservices to grant criminal prosecution offices and secret
services with automated, unrestricted and immediate access to old and current
personal data of their clients at any time without the knowledge of the
providers. For this purpose, a regulation office is to be installed within the
department of economics which is to determine the desired data on behalf of
secuity offices. The providers are to pay the costs of the necessary technical
changes that need to be made themselves. Apart from the telecom, mobile
telephone companies, Internet providers and mailbox operators are also affected.
Since the regulations not only effect commercial operators but also
businesslike operators with and without profit purposes, operators of
hobby-mailboxes or internal company data- and telephonenetworks cold also be
made responsible.

While supporters of the law argue that extended inverstigative powers would be
needed in the age of digital communication, critics say that it could not
prevent the criminal use of services. While supporters declare that it would
only be used to attain general data, critics fear that the law would allow the
surveillance of users; security offices could, for example, make exact
personality profiles of users since many providers store not only general data
about their clients, but also specific data on what services they used.
Furthermore, the law contains no regulations or punishments to sanction abuse.

So far, there has been little public notice of this conflict, since most
newspapers and other media only reported on the main function of the
telecommunications bill. But on the Internet opposition is growing: Following
the example of the US-American Blue Ribbon Campaign which opposed net-censorship
by the Communications Decency Act and found thousands of supporters world-wide,
Nicolas Reichelt from the Institue of New Media in Frankfurt has designed a
graphical bug in protest of the bugging law, which can be seen on a growing
number of web-sites that disapprove of the new law. On his (german-language)
web-site a copy of the graphic ready for download and numerous links to sites
dealing with this and related subjects can be found: http://www5.inm.de/tkg/

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