EU: Security vs. Privacy

German language media translated for TVR's Media Monitor

News | Vienna Review | April 2012

Under the 2006 EU Data Retention Directive, member states agreed to keep a record of citizens’ email and telephone traffic (but not messages’ content) for at least six months. 

In Austria, the directive takes effect on 1 Apr. But Germany may face penalties from the European Court of Justice after its own constitutional court declared the directive unlawful.


The Surveillance Republic, 14 Mar.

by Ingrid Brodnig

In the past, the police investigated crimes that had actually been committed. These days, what matters is risk. It’s all about finding possible offenders. Investigators become active even before there are any concrete hints or suspicions. Soon, it will be common practice to observe citizens who have never committed an offense, but simply look suspicious, in order to assess potential risks…

The question is: Will Europe’s constitutional courts stop this paradigm shift?

Supreme Court judges in Romania and the Czech Republic – who can still remember Stasi methods – ruled that data retention conflicts with their countries’ constitutions. The German Federal Constitutional Court also raised objections and stopped the implementation process in March 2010.

The resistance has proved effective: The European Commission is currently evaluating whether compulsory data retention could be abolished.

This creates the paradoxical situation that Austria is reluctantly introducing the EU directive, while the rest of Europe is already thinking of getting rid of it.


Civil Rights: Worth A Few Million, 22 Mar.

by Patrick Beuth

The lengthy process [at the European Court of Justice, ECJ] could lead to a fine for Germany…

Germany should take that risk and, if necessary, pay up. This would send an important signal: That protection of civil rights is worth the money.

Not only that. The government has remained silent ever since the constitutional court stopped data retention from going ahead a year ago; to accept defeat now would be absurd. In the event that the ECJ finds Germany guilty of violating the EU treaties, the European Commission would have to file a second complaint against Germany appealing for fines. Months, even years, might pass until transfers are due. There’s no need to hurry…

Now would be the perfect time to re-negotiate the trade-off between security and civil rights. By showing that they are prepared to accept a fine, Germans could spark the debate about fundamental principles that Europe needs.


The German Security Policy Soufflé,  7 Feb.

by Heribert Prantl

Studies show that the police can do without extensive data retention. The claim that excessive retention of telecom data helps fight crime has become a favourite reference for European, and particularly German, security policy. The claim is wrong.


Also See this month's Austrian News Briefs:

U-turn: Secrecy saved

Graft Damages Growth in Austria 

Vienna: Green parking fees

Other articles from this issue