- Important signal for the entire Internet industry: “The German federal government must react now”
- SpaceNet AG: Blanket data retention is the wrong instrument to fight crime
- Blanket data retention violates European fundamental rights
The German Federal Administrative Court is suspending the blanket data retention proceedings and referring the decision to the European Court of Justice (EUCJ). The EUCJ is to decide whether the German rules on blanket data retention are compatible with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. The Internet provider SpaceNet, supported by eco – Association of the Internet Industry, filed a lawsuit back in April 2016. The aim of the action is to finally stop the blanket retention of data by means of a landmark decision. This latest decision by the German Federal Administrative Court from 25 September 2019 is of central importance for the affected Internet and telecommunications companies.
Important signal for the entire Internet industry: “The German federal government must react now”
“We are very satisfied with the outcome of the proceedings and with today’s ruling by the German Federal Administrative Court. The primary objective of this action has always been to bring about a landmark decision, in particular by submitting fundamental legal questions, with such a decision ultimately only possible from the European Court of Justice, and this has now come to pass. At this point at the latest, the German federal government should now also react and send a clear political signal against blanket data retention,” demands Oliver J. Süme, Chair of the eco Board.
In the case of blanket data retention, the traffic and location data of users of most telecommunications services are stockpiled and stored without cause. Blanket data retention is highly controversial due to its far-reaching encroachment on fundamental rights. At the same time, the assumption that it might actually help to combat crime has not yet been borne out. The technical implementation, on the other hand, is both complex and expensive and costs companies an estimated EUR 600 million.
SpaceNet AG: Blanket data retention is the wrong instrument to fight crime
Sebastian von Bomhard, Chair of the plaintiff company SpaceNet AG, also sees the position of his company as having been validated. “We have always been vigilant in such massive encroachments on fundamental civil rights, especially digital rights, and have taken a clear stand to protect our customers,” says von Bomhard: “We are therefore pleased with the ruling, which has brought us a little closer to the legal certainty that we so urgently need as a company.”
Blanket data retention violates European fundamental rights
At the end of 2016, the European Court of Justice ruled on comparable regulations in Sweden and Great Britain that the fundamental right to respect for private life requires that the retention of personal data must remain an exception and not the rule. Retention should be limited to what is absolutely necessary.
The German Federal Administrative Court has now referred the case to the European Court of Justice (EUCJ): “A national regulation which provides for a general and indiscriminate blanket retention of data is inadmissible. Taken as a whole, all the data stored could be used to draw very precise conclusions about people’s private lives, and blanket retention is likely to give them the impression that their private lives are being constantly monitored. The EUCJ will once again reject the retention of data,” explains Prof. Matthias Bäcker, acting as counsel for the plaintiff.
Some background information:
The company SpaceNet AG took action against the highly controversial monitoring instrument by filing a lawsuit with the Administrative Court of Cologne on 25 April 2016. eco – Association of the Internet Industry has supported this lawsuit from the outset. Most recently, the Administrative Court (VG) of Cologne ruled in favor of SpaceNet AG on 20 April 2018, file no. 9 K 3958/16. In the interest of clarification through a decision by the supreme court, the company agreed to a leap-frog appeal to the German Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig. All details on the status of the proceedings are summarized in a background paper (in German).
German Federal Administrative Court Leipzig, 25.09.2019, File no.: 6 C 12.18 (and file no.: 6 C 13.18, parallel proceedings of Telekom)
Administrative Court Cologne, 20.04.2018, file no.: 9 K 3859/16
Higher Administrative Court North Rhine-Westphalia, 22.06.2017, file no.: 13 B 238/17
Administrative Court Cologne, 25.01.2017, file no.: 9 L 1009/16