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Lightening Up On Privacy To Fight Cybercrime?

Source: AVN Online
By Charles Farrar
Date: December 05, 2003

Cybercrime WIESBADEN, Germany - Germany's privacy laws, written in part to banish its Nazi and Communist pasts, are considered one of Germany today's most cherished groups of laws. But rising Internet crime has Germany actually pondering whether to modify or even ease them in order to fight cybercrime effectively.

Both the government and German law enforcement are reported saying new rules are needed to store online connection information - who gets to which Websites - in case they need it for evidence in criminal investigations. But according to Reuters, telecommunications companies and data protection officials - not to mention civil libertarians - fear an easing of privacy laws could lead eventually to a resurrection of such totalitarianism as destroyed Germany under Nazi and East German Communist rule.

"This goes to the very root of a democratic society," Brandenburg commissioner for data protection Alexander Dix told a cybercrime conference, after German Interior Minister Otto Schily proposed connection data be stored by Internet service providers. "Telecommunications secrecy is very strongly eenshrined in our constitution. The Gestapo experience and also the Stasi experience is something which is very present in the public mind here."

Schily had told the conference it's unacceptable that law enforcement can't get to connection data to fight cybercrime because the data is deleted for protection reasons by the time authorities request the information.

Bavarian senior Interior official Waldemar Kindler said such data storage as Schily called for is "a fair price to pay" to fight Internet crime. "We want to combat child pornographers and terrorists, and we need the necessary prerequisites for that fight," Reuters quoted him as telling the conference. "We must not be distracted by idealism and create lawless areas in which the security of the citizen is in danger."

Tell that to Dix, who says data privacy and privacy rights are not a "distraction," idealistically or otherwise. "All your preferences, the kind of information you might have downloaded from the Net, the Websites you have visited - all that would be registered in a weekly encoded form" if connection data were retained, he said. "That could easily be decoded to show your political opinions, your preferences. Your lifestyle would really be open to anybody who had access to this data."

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