For me privacy means that some basic rules apply and not a vague red line like former minister of interior Mr. de Maizière said. These rules are in case of handling the data, that the principle of data economy is adhered and that I have the right to know what data is stored about me. One of the biggest projects that challenged data privacy and civil rights in recent years was the project of data retention. As an affected customer I filed a suit against data retention with thousans others before the Federal Constitutional Court, I worked in the focus group data retention (AK Vorratsdatenspeicherung), I helped to organize the Freedom Not Fear demonstrations, educated people about the facts, and finally, decided to sue for information on my personal data with the support of the Green party. I wanted to know what is beeing stored and also check whether the storage is such as prescribed by the legislative. Therefore, I sued my former mobile operator T-Mobile for disclosure on the basis of § 34 of the Federal Data Protection Act. The process was protracted and there was a court date. However, the Federal Constitutional Court declared on march 2nd 2010, the general design of data retention unconstitutional and ordered the deletion of all stored data. We acted rapidly and agreed on a settlement with T-Mobile about the disclosure of the records. The records that I then received didn’t include the phone numbers of the people I called or texted or who called or texted me. So half of the regularly stored data was missing.
Nevertheless, the mass of data, 35,000 records of my life, appalled me. Although angles of radiation and geo data are not my area of expertise, with the support of others I managed to conduct a small first analysis and determined that it were really my data. It was clear to me that the theoretical threat of such a mass storage has to become finally tangible. So I’ve decided to publish the data in order to show that the stored records make ones life transparent and invade ones sphere of personal privacy. With ZEIT Online I then found a partner who was interested in evaluating and processing the data – thank you for that. You can now see the result. There are also some of the raw data to try one’s hand at.
However, you have to be aware that this is only half of the data. With a complete set of records or multiple records it is easy to discover a lot more about people and their private and social life.
While for six months following the decision of the Federal Constitutional Court, there was some stagnation on the topic, since winter 2010 it’s a current issue again. Even for the FDP (Liberals), a unconditional preservation of telecommunication data is no longer a taboo. Data retention in Germany has at most taken a break and is unfortunately far from being off the table. Therefore I say clearly: stop data retention here and all over Europe!
Here are some more information on this issue.