German Monitoring Comes into Focus

June 23, 2021

Redittor u/emooon alerts us to some disturbing legislation in the post, “Germany is About to Pass a Law that Allows German Intelligence Agencies to Use Trojan Software on its Citizens Without Any Reasons for Suspicion.” The post points us to a warning from the civil rights and consumer protection organization Digitale Gesellschaft (“Digital Society”); see here for the original German version and here for Google’s auto-translation. The society’s press release states that several entities, including the Chaos Computer Club, Facebook, and Google, protested the law in an open letter (original here) to the German Parliament. Despite the objections, however, the law was passed on June 10. U/emooon summarizes the problem:

“The focus of criticism is the authority to use the so called State-Trojans for the purpose of source telecommunication surveillance, with which in particular also stored encrypted communication directly on the end devices of the users is to be diverted and monitored. Not only are ongoing communications to be monitored, but in some cases stored messages are also to be accessed retroactively. This not only represents a significant encroachment on the fundamental rights of those affected, but also undermines the security of communications as a whole, as the authorities hack into the devices and exploit security loopholes instead of closing them. In addition, the powers to monitor individuals are to be massively expanded and the intelligence services are to be given broad discretion to take action. This is justified in particular by activities on the Internet.”

Then there is the part that prompted that open letter mentioned above:

“[These organizations] all fear that the expansion of Article 10 could force communications service providers to limit the security and integrity of their own services to help intelligence agencies spy. This reaches as far as being obligated to transfer ‘software-updates’ through the German intelligence agencies in order for them to integrate spyware.”

Furthermore, we are told, the law undermines the well-established separation requirement between the intelligence services and the police. This is not an encouraging development.

Cynthia Murrell, June 23, 2021

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