ECJ Decides on German Data Retention: eco Association and Spacenet AG Consider Ruling in Favour of Fundamental Rights to Be Realistic

Massive invasion of privacy: data retention affects 2.35 billion data records per day

In the legal dispute between SpaceNet AG and the Federal Republic of Germany, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) will decide on 20 September whether the German regulations on data retention are compatible with EU law.

eco – Association of the Internet Industry has supported the lawsuit of SpaceNet AG from the beginning. According to the Association’s assessment, the general and indiscriminate retention of traffic data, with around 2.35 billion data records per day (IP addresses and telephony), affects almost all German users and costs the industry more than 600 million Euros.

Oliver Süme, Chair of the Board of eco – Association of the Internet Industry:

“Data retention massively encroaches on our privacy, but brings no proven added value for law enforcement. Instead of seriously looking for alternatives, Germany is still carrying the mantra that serious crime can only be fought with data retention – but this is wrong. We urgently need to discuss alternative approaches, such as quick-freeze, selective, or occasion-based measures. If the ECJ deems the German regulations incompatible with EU law, the German government should seize this opportunity to set a political course and quickly initiate the repeal of data retention.”

Sebastian von Bomhard, Founder and CEO SpaceNet AG:

“If the European Court of Justice follows the Advocate General’s assessment and also declares German data retention to be contrary to Union law, this would be an important milestone for the Internet and telecommunications industry. Six years after the start of the proceedings, the ECJ can finally create legal certainty in dealing with the retention of data. More suitable methods for the prevention and prosecution of criminal offences must be found. The conflict must not be carried out on the backs of Internet users, including our customers, also in the future.”

SpaceNet AG had already filed a complaint with the Cologne Administrative Court in 2016. The German Federal Administrative Court then submitted several questions of principle to the ECJ for clarification in September 2019. In his opinion, ECJ Advocate General Campos Sánchez-Bordona declared the German regulations on data retention to be incompatible with EU law in November last year – an important milestone victory for eco and SpaceNet.

The Association and the Internet provider believe it is realistic that the actual ECJ ruling will now also be in favour of fundamental rights.

Dr Matthias Bäcker, Professor of Public Law, University of Mainz, attorney at law:

“A national regulation that provides for general and indiscriminate data retention is and remains inadmissible. In October 2020 already, the ECJ for the first time objected to regulations from Belgium, France, the United Kingdom and Estonia, which were very similar to the German data retention.”


Technical background information on blanket data protection in Germany is available in the Fact Sheet: What is Traffic Data?

Expected ECJ Rulings on Blanket Data Retention: eco Association Warns Against Across-the-Board Digital Surveillance