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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Goodbye freedom, goodbye privacy II

Here comes an update on the scary news about police/secret service crackers. There have been two major developments since my last post.

First, Mr. Wolf, minister of the interior of North-Rhine Westfalia (NRW) and member of the so-called "liberal" party FDP, managed to get a law through parliament that allows the Verfassungsschutz, the secret service of the interior, to attack private computers and conduct covert online searches. The FDP and the Christian Democrats form the NRW government and have a comfortable majority in the NRW parliament. The opposition parties, social democrats and the green party, did vote against the law but it seems that the only way to stop it is a constitutional complaint filed by civil rights activist and journalist Twister.

Fortunately, there is not only bad news about privacy rights. A judge of the Bundesgerichtshof, the second highest court in Germany, rejected to sign a request to conduct exactly what I have described above. Apparently there already have been four cases in which law enforcement agencies got judicial approval for internet-based cracking attacks on private computers (they all failed for technical reasons) before Judge Ulrich Hebenstreit realized that these measures have no legal foundation. The attorney general has challenged this decision and thus we have to wait and see how the story will turn out. Even if Hebenstreit's decision will hold this is no big relief. As stated in my previous post, federal minister of the interior Schäuble is very eager to create the legal foundation for what is now only a nightmare. And even if law enforcement agencies at the moment might not have the technical means to intrude on your computer this is only a question of time—a few weeks ago Schäuble managed to get 132 million Euros (174 million USD) for measure to improve on- and offline surveillance.

I must say that I am really scared.

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