Datenschutz, German Politics, Germany, internet, privacy

“The privacy and integrity of information processing systems”

Striking down state (Land) legislation from Nordrhein-Westfalia that allowed the use of trojan software to spy on individual’s computers, the German constitutional court (Bundesvrfassungsgericht) has derived from the fundamental legal premises of the German constutiton a new basic right to “privacy and integrity of information processing systems” (my quick and dirty translation). As a basic right, it can only be infringed given very specific circumstances – in this case, the court explicitly mentioned “specific” threats to the life and liberty of individuals, or “concrete” threats to the state.

It will obviously depend on legislative interpretations of the court’s ruling to see whether it’s possible to speak of a “loophole” in the basic right, as Spiegel Online English does. My guess is not, as politicians will not want to get slapped in the face by the Constitutional Court again, and the court will rule on two more privacy related cases soon.

While the court’s ruling will have to be studied in detail to understand its intentions more clearly, this is clearly a landmark decision with respect to the question of how to balance the state’s desire to gather information to protect its citizens and ensure the rule of law with the citizens’ right to privacy.

The Chaos Computer Club’s Andreas Bogk’s, who serves as an expert at the court, likenes the verdict to the census ruling in 1983, which derived a basic right to informational self determination and paved the way for privacy protection legislation. (German) has everything and then another link and quote regarding the verdict and the unfolding media coverage.

Some more links in English – BBC, WSJ, Bloomberg.

US Politics

America’s Enabling Act? Catastrophic events and the suspension of the division of power in the USA.

Telepolis (in German) reports about the US “National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive” that was apparently ‘taken out with the trash’ by the White House Communications department on May 9, 2007, and, accordingly, apparently deemed too sensitve to explain even to US Congressmen, has not been approrpriately covered by the media. The directive is intended to ensure US governmental functionality in the case of “catastrophic events”, yet raises concerns for being weak on the definitions as well as giving only the Presidency the apaprently legally unchallengable power to invoke as well as recind this state of emergency.

An article published in the Boston Globe a month after the directive had been published details that even Conservatives who were involved in the campaign against former Democratic Presidential Candidate John Kerry are deeply critical of the directive. According to to the Boston Globe –

“[t]he unanswered questions have provoked anxiety across ideological lines. The conservative commentator Jerome Corsi , for example, wrote in a much-linked online column that the directive looked like a recipe for allowing the office of the presidency to seize “dictatorial powers” because the policy does not discuss consulting Congress about when to invoke emergency powers — or when to turn them off.”

Interestingly, the Congressman, Peter DeFazio, who is apparently a member of the U.S. House on the Homeland Security Committee and as such entitled to review classified material, asking to review details of the policy on behalf of some of his constituents who worried about “a conspiracy” being buried in the classified documents, told The Oregonian after his request was denied that

“[m]aybe the people who think there’s a conspiracy out there are right.”

Coming from a Congressman, that’s at least somewhat scary.

media, Sport

In dubio pro reo?

Gerade lief in der ZDF Nachrichtensendung “heute” ein Bericht über die Pressekonferenz, auf der Jan Ullrich heute seinen Rücktritt vom Profisport bekannt gab. Die Kommentatorin beklagte dabei, daß Jan Ullrich

“wie fast alle Verdächtigen kein Schuldbewußtsein gezeigt habe.”

Wenigstens ist die kommentierende Redakteurin, wenn auch vermutlich unabsichtlich, ehrlich. Die wenigsten werden so offen vorverurteilen. Aber es zeigt, wie sehr uns allen, aber vor allem den Medien, allgemein – aber insbesondere in Bezug auf Doping (im Radsport) – die rechtlichen und moralischen Kategorien verschwimmen.

Das ist ein Problem bei dem wohl auch ein später Unschuldsbeweis für Jan Ullrich nicht helfen würde.

compulsory reading, Iraq, Political Theory

Patches of War.

I don’t know how many black sheep there are in the US army in Iraq today. But I suppose there are a lot who never imagined their fur would even feature a single black patch, because, probably, given normal circumstances, they’d likely have remained white all their lives.

Stress, anxiety, guys stewing in their own testosterone for extended periods of time. That’s one of the, sometimes intended, but always terrible consequences of war: it hardly ever creates heroes and almost always creates thugs.

It’s not the war per se, but the violence it inevitably brings wit it – think of the Stanford Prison Experiment, remember Liran Ron Furer’s “Checkpoint Syndrome” for just two chilling accounts of the effects violence on “white sheep”. And if some sheep are already black in disguise, war certainly attracts them, as it, at least partly, legalizes behaviour that is considered criminal in peacetime.

But there are limits, and the above argument can only serve as a reminder to those in power, that it’s not just Patriot Games they play, never as an excuse for the murder of an Iraqi family and the gang-rape of their 14year old daughter – BBC NEWS | Americas | US soldier admits murdering girl.

A couple of years ago, someone left some sick spam comments about amateur pornography featuring raped Iraqi women ( “The most disgusting porn spam ever“). In light of this story I can’t help but wonder if the offer wasn’t just the result of someone’s unfortunate experiments in role playing with a video camera.


Too Sad.

OK, for once here’s a quicklink without a link. I briefly considered publishing and linking Michael Jackson’s police booking photos but then I figured that it would be inappropriate, even though it would look good on any plastic surgeon’s brochure – as a before pic.

The man looks barely human on the picture. Anyway – I don’t mind everybody having a ball, I understand that network executives ordered boxes of Dom Pérignon yesterday, but whatever the outcome of the investigation and possible trial, all this is simply too sad. The OJ case was disgusting, imagine what this will be like. What I really don’t understand is radio stations (including some German stations) not playing his music because of this. What has happened to the good ol’ days when people were actually innocent until proven guilty?

Germany, quicklink


In Germany, phone-numbers starting with 0190 can be charged at imaginary rates by a service provider. No wonder some doubtful service providers call mobile phones and wait for unwitting users to just press callback. But according to heise online it is not even illegal to send spam like “Someone would like to get to know you, dial 0190-xxx to find out who”. Do I agree with this? The question basically comes down to – what kind of cultural and technological knowledge can be safely assumed from mobile phone users. What about my tech-unsavvy dad? Should he be protected or learn the hard way? I think he should be protected. If lying per se is not fraud, it should be, when it comes to a corporation lying about the underlying principle for their call.