In a landmark ruling, Germany's highest court orders major changes to  the German data retention law, which will provide tighter protection for users' privacy. German ISPs have to delete all communications data stored to date.


Germany's highest court has ordered the  law on data retention to be tighted up. This is the law which orders ISPs to store their users' communications traffic data, specifically records of email communications. This ruling by the German court  is  in a radical move which poses a challenge to EU law. The judgement follows a class action from 35,000 German citizens. The action was led by the German pressure group AK Vorrat, who have consistently opposed the data retention law. 


The ruling states that 

users should have more protection of their privacy in respect of  their communications. In particular, it calls for a judicial ruling before retained data can be used, and then only if it is necessary in  individual cases. The ruling  puts the existing law into suspension until the changes ordered by the court have been made, and hence ISPs have been ordered to delete data which they currently store. 


The German law is based on the EU Data Retention directive. The directive does not specify a judicial ruling, and is arguably weak in terms of the conditions under which retained communications data can be used. It is also badly drafted at a technical level, and was heavily criticised at the time of going through the EU legislature. 


The Data Retention directive was rushed through the European Parliament under the British Presidency of 2005. It was controversial because the European Parliament ignored the recommendation of the rapporteur, Alexander Alvaro, and supported the Presidency. 


Sweden, Austria and Romania  also have  concerns regarding the directive, and have not yet implemented it. 


For more details see: 

Spiegel  Online

Associated Press 

AK Vorrat (English) 


This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK:England and Wales License. It may be used for non-commercial purposes only, and the author's name should be attributed. The correct attribution for this article is: Monica Horten (2010) German court orders overhaul of data retention law 2 March  2010