Archive | Germany

German mass surveillance: Business as usual

As Netzpolitik points out, while the committee was busy discussing the few things it could discuss, the German parliament was expanding BND’s legal authorities.

German citizens – along with everyone the government spies on – can rest assured nothing has changed. It’s only gotten worse.

Techdirt: Germany’s Spy Agency Walks Away From Three-Year Investigation With Expanded Spy Powers »


Germany: No liability for open WiFi

Wenn Gäste illegale Downloads starten, müssen Cafébetreiber keine Gerichtskosten mehr fürchten. Das soll ein neuer Gesetzentwurf regeln, der auch klarstellt: Es gibt weiterhin keine Passwortpflicht für offene Netze.

So, it seems that operators (cafés, hotels, etc.) of open WiFi nets in Germany no longer will be held liable or risk legal costs if it is used by someone for e.g. illegal downloads.

Nor will there be any requirement as such for password protection. However, a court or a national authority can issue an order against a WLAN operator to prevent the repetition of an infringement.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: Weniger Haftungsrisiken für offene W-Lan-Netze »


Not so free speech in Germany

A Hamburg court Friday barred a TV comedian from reciting in full his so-called “defamatory poem” against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan which sparked a diplomatic row last year. (…)

The Hamburg civil court, upholding a ruling from last May, barred Böhmermann from repeating lengthy passages of the poem, objecting to 18 of its 24 lines.

The Hamburg court bans large parts of poem insulting Erdogan »


Germany going after whistleblowers

EDRi observer Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte’s (GFF) most recent Constitutional Court case in Germany concerns an anti-whistleblowing provision threatening the freedom of the press. Part-time journalists and bloggers, as well as the legal or IT experts on which journalists rely, now risk a prison sentence of up to three years for handling “leaked” data. (…)

Prohibiting the trade in stolen data may make sense for stolen credit card information or login credentials. The new law, however, is so broadly worded that it also encompasses information “leaked” by whistleblowers, which is an obvious threat to the freedom of the press that systematically relies on such information. For example, under the new law, the documents leaked by Edward Snowden arguably can no longer be legally used on German soil.

EDRi » Germany: Fighting the anti-whistleblower provision »


Germany towards a centralised Police State?

German interior minister Thomas de Maiziere has announced a series of proposals that revolve around giving the German federal government more power over security agencies, cyber attacks, policing and deportations; permitting the deployment of the military internally; expanding the scope of the proposed EU Entry/Exit System and loosening the the EU definition of “safe third countries”.

There is this German proverb: History does not repeat itself. But it rhymes.

Statewatch » Interior ministry “wish list”: strengthen central government security, policing and deportation powers »


War on fake news and hate speech to open Pandora’s box?

What is truth?

Facebook will start to flag content as »disputed«. Obvious fake news will be flagged by Facebook itself. And disputed »real« news content will be subject to third-party fact-checking with e.g. Snopes,, ABC News, the AP, and Politifact.

Are they to draw a line between »fake« and »wrong«? While »fake« in many cases might be assessed on reasonably objective grounds, »right« or »wrong« can be a very complicated and delicate matter.

At the same time, there is a proposal in Germany to fine Facebook € 500,000 for each identified piece of fake news or hate speech that is not removed within 24 hours.

To its nature, »hate speech« is a definition that lies very much in the eye of the beholder. Even where there is a legal definition, things might prove problematic – as such laws often give different groups different sets of »rights« (like protection from verbal or written abuse). This being a deviation from the principle that all people should be equal before the law.

These are extremely complex issues. No doubt these rules will lead to disputes over freedom of speech. Here also lies inherent conflicts between mainstream media and alternative media, between the political elite and popular opposition, and between conflicting sets of values. This might prove to be a modern version of Pandora’s box.

And – in a wider perspective – the very notion that there will be some sort of »Ministry of Truth« is deeply disturbing.


• Wired: Facebook Finally Gets Real About Fighting Fake News »
• Deutsche Welle: 500,000 euro fines for fake news on Facebook in Germany? »
• Quartz: Germany threatens to fine Facebook €500,000 for each fake news post »


Frosty relations between UK and German spy agencies

The Snowden revelations on US NSA spying in Germany still poison relations between UK (and US) intelligence community and their German counterparts.

The Daily Mail:

Relations between British and German spy chiefs have hit rock bottom because London says its counterparts in Berlin cannot be trusted to keep secrets. (…)

The source said: ‘It has now reached the point where there is virtual radio silence between the two biggest and most important intelligence services of the western world and the BND of Germany.

‘Germany is worried because it needs the umbrella protection of these agencies. It is virtually blind without it.’

This also concerns German requests for information demanded by the German Bundestag’s (parliaments) committee on mass surveillance:

Both the UK and America refused to send any of the requested files to Germany. Included among them was a demand for information about a 2013 operation handled by both countries – and in co-operation with the BND – which was, and remains, top secret but was known to involve a massive surveillance programme on suspected Islamic terrorists across Europe.

Britain fears a ‘big debate’ in the German parliament which would lay open secret sources and intelligence gathering techniques.

To complicate matters even more, the German Bundestag is searching for a »Wikileaks mole« – said to leak information from the said NSA investigative committee.

The Daily Mail » German spies ‘can’t be trusted’: Relations between the UK and Berlin intelligence chiefs hit after comments by London »

Berliner Morgenpost » Bundestagspolizei sucht Wikileaks-Maulwurf im Parlament »


Links to need pre-clearance?

This is worrisome…

(A) Hamburg court ruled that the operator of a website violated on copyright by publishing a link to material that was infringing, even though the site operator was unaware of this fact.

Ars Technica: Commercial sites must check all their links for piracy, rules Hamburg court »

Pre-clearing all links with the linked websites would be a very complicated and time-consuming task – for both parties. Not to mention all the paperwork to document this, to avoid future problems.

And exactly what constitutes a »commercial site«?

The Hamburg court ruled that even though the link in question was not used to generate revenue directly, the site as a whole was commercial, since it sells learning materials via one of its Web pages.

So – I guess – if you have ads on your site, if you sell stuff or if you lead your readers to anything of commercial interest (like services that you provide) the purpose can be deemed »commercial«. This resulting in most sites on the net falling into this category.

This is leading to a very real dilemma. Links are the nerve system of the Internet. Most site owners would love to have you link to their pages. And for reference, an open and democratic debate and knowledge building links are essential. (Like in this blog post.)

But according to the Hamburg court, you can get in serious trouble if you don’t obtain a pre-clearance.

Even if you have the time and resources to pre-clear every link – it is likely that people running the sites you would like to link to simply do not have the resources to reply to every request to link.

So if you run a blog or a site that you want people to link to, you better state that it is published under Creative Commons license CC=BY or CC=0.



Wikileaks: German BND-NSA Inquiry Exhibits

The inquiry was established in 2014 in the wake of the Snowden revelations, which showed that not only was the NSA spying on the whole world, but it had also partnered with the intelligence services of particular states to spy on their citizens and those of the surrounding regions. One of these countries is Germany, which has had a close relationship with the US in military and intelligence matters since its occupation by US forces in WWII. The US has been shown to use its bases in Germany and its relationship with German intelligence to spy on German citizens as well as European Union institutions. (…)

Last week, on 21 November 2016, Germany’s Federal Court of Justice upheld the complaint and ruled that the committee was obliged to hear Edward Snowden in person. However, at the next inquiry hearing three days after the ruling, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Union bloc and the Social Democrats removed Snowden’s invitation from the agenda of the inquiry and are contesting the Court’s decision.

Wikileaks: German BND-NSA Inquiry Exhibits »