Germany, 'World Champion'
at Spying On Its Own Citizens,
to Monitor Internet Usage
Source: German Alert 97-04-21 (now disappeared)

BONN -- Chancellor Helmut Kohl's government introduced legislation that will allow seamless spying of Internet usage in Germany. The government's "Multimedia Law" means a "massive invasion" into the private lives of Germans, the government's own privacy officials declared.

Online services and Internet Service Providers (ISP's) will be required to provide an array of information about every one of their customers to German police, German intelligence and German administrative agencies.

Among the data that the Kohl government demands:

Names and addresses of all Internet users.
Which services -- web, e-mail, newsgroups -- are used by which Internet users.
Which newsgroups users participate in and which themes they take part in.

Police and government agencies are to establish "user profiles" based upon the data, which will be collected about all online service and Internet users, not only those accused of illegal activity.

The Multimedia Law is to be accompanied by a Cryptography Law that will make it a crime for users to encrypt e-mail messages that can not be read by the government.

Government officials responsible for privacy laws in Germany reacted with horror and disgust at the legislation. Meeting in Munich (18 April), they called the Multimedia Law a "massive attack" against freedom of speech, freedom to hold one's own opinion and freedom of information. Existing German laws are more than sufficient to track down criminals, the privacy officials declared.

Germany is already "world champion" of spying on its citizens because of 1994 legislation which orders government eavesdropping on telephone calls, according to the Berlin state official responsible for privacy, Hansjürgen Garstka. Official German governmental telephone eavesdropping is up nearly 600 percent since less than a decade ago, government stastistics reveal (see chart).

The Multimedia Law was given its first reading in the Bundestag yesterday.

- 19 April 1997

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