Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, is due to debate and vote on the German Data Retention Law next week. The Law incorporates the principles of the EU Data Retention Directive, that is the mandatory retention of all telecoms traffic data for law enforcement purposes. A joint letter from telecoms associations VATM (which represents competitors to incumbent Deutsche Telekom), ECO (which represents German internet providers) and Bitkom (which represents the telecoms industry) has been sent to the heads of all parties in the Bundestag urging for changes to the bill. The letter raises a number of points: that the German Law should not exceed the minimum standards of the EU Directive; that the transfer of retained data to law enforcement agencies should be restricted to the prosecution of ‘severe crimes’ only; that the retention obligation start date of 1 January 2008 cannot be technically implemented and should be pushed back by at least a year; that law enforcement is the government’s job and if telecoms firms are obliged to assist they must be fully reimbursed; that mandatory data retention requires enormous investment and many small and medium-sized companies in particular will be hit very hard in the absence of reimbursement; and that the legality of the EU Directive is still sub judice at the European Court of Justice, therefore the Bill should be delayed pending the ECJ ruling.
Axel Spies, on behalf of the VATM (German Competitive Carriers Association), told TeleGeography, ‘The deliberations at the German Federal Parliament are now reaching a crucial phase and whatever the outcome will be, it is very likely that the new law will be challenged by someone at the courts. Moreover, the European Court of Justice’s final word on the legality of the EU Data Retention Directive and its compliance with EU law has not been spoken, and its decision could change the scenario quite a lot. What is already clear from the debate is that the laws of the individual EU member states vary significantly which makes EU compliance difficult.’