September 18, 2007 | By Danny O'Brien

Berlin Protests the Surveillance State

[Update: The full schedule for the protest is now up. You can tune into live audio coverage of the Berlin demonstration online, with a five minute English update every hour, on the hour, from 12:00 CET to 21:00 CET.]

Digital rights issues don’t always get the crowds out onto the streets - but
it does happen. This Saturday, Germans will be
demonstrating

under the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin against the rise of the surveillance
state in that country - including the German implementation of the EU’s Data
Retention Directive
, an EU-wide
law that compels ISPs and phone companies to track and stockpile every user’s
call, email destination and web-access for later access by law enforcement.

The Data Retention directive was passed by the European Parliament in 2005:
all the countries of the European Union were supposed to implement it in
national law by last week. Few have; and, country by country, the resistance
against this ill-concieved piece of legislation is growing.

The Berlin protest is organised by a coalition of more than 50 groups,
including Arbeitskreis
Vorratsdatenspeicherung

(the Working Group on Data Retention) , who are also taking their
grievances

to the German Federal Constitutional
Court
.
These groups believe the Data Retention directive’s requirements fundamentally
breach not only the privacy principles laid down in the
ECHR , but also the German Constitution .

Germany has, like the U.S., a Supreme Court that can declare
national legislation unconstitutional: it is yet undecided whether the court can
challenge European Union law. That’s what Arbeitskreis Vorratsdatenspeicherung
is seeking to discover in their complaint. It’s a legal showdown that could shake implementations of the directive in
many other countries in Europe, as well as change how future directives might
be permitted to undermine established civil liberties.

In the United States, the recent resignation of ex-Attorney Alberto Gonzalez have put his
plans to steer data retention
legislation

to the US on the backburner. These popular moves against the
European data retention regime should give his replacement serious pause
before following Europe’s lead.


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