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.
Netzpolitk.org (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.