Guest contribution: Data transfer torpedoed privacy

It only took the murder of Walter Lübcke and the attack on a synagogue in Halle: far too late, the federal government is fighting growing right-wing extremism and the spread of hate online. Once again she is wrong. Once again, the integrity of privacy is being torpedoed by legislative changes. Once again, the freedom of the citizens is supposed to be sacrificed for what is supposed to be more security.

At the heart of the package of measures presented by the Federal Ministry of Justice is a comprehensive right to information in the Telemedia Act (TMG), according to which providers are obliged to disclose their users' private data to the authorities. Law enforcement agencies, but also the protection of the constitution and customs can access highly sensitive data such as passwords and IP addresses.

(Image: Friedrich Naumann Foundation / Tobias Koch)

The lawyer and long-time member of the Bundestag Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger was twice Federal Minister of Justice and is now on the board of the FDP-affiliated Friedrich Naumann Foundation.

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In the digital age, this access enables a comprehensive examination of the private life of citizens, their social relationships and their consumer behavior. In addition: Telemedia providers may not legally publish such highly sensitive data in unencrypted form. For good reasons: The obligation to provide a password would amount to a digital bugging attack on the citizens.

The state can only gain access to private data at the expense of data protection and IT security. This is to be concealed by the so-called judge's reservation, according to which the right to information can only be implemented by a judge's order. Ultimately, however, this supervisory authority can easily become a farce. In view of the complexity and the high time pressure in the area of ​​network crime, the judge's reservation can hardly offer a sufficient rule of law corrective action – at least not in the thoroughness that would be necessary in view of the sensitive interventions in private life.

The government overshoots the mark with its ill-considered attempt to get the problem of right-wing agitation and violence under control. Of course, hate crime must be prosecuted, but panicked hoarding of data doesn't protect against rights or hate. And so the impression arises that another concrete occasion should be used to enforce general access rights to sensitive data.

We remember: The Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG) ​​was only adopted in 2017 to combat many of the problems that the new reform project is now addressing. So instead of adopting legislative changes with a needle, the government and authorities should first focus on enforcing existing law.

The same applies to the planned reporting obligation for operators of social media. You are required to report illegal content to law enforcement agencies. However, instead of making improvements, the authorities, which are already operating at the limit, are finally overloaded. Thousands of criminal hate posts are posted on social media every day. Despite the planned increase in personnel, the authorities would hardly be able to combat hate crime sustainably with such an additional workload.

However, this is exactly what needs to be addressed. The sovereign tasks of law enforcement cannot be left to private network operators, they have to be carried out by state authorities. The North Rhine-Westphalian special department for serious cases of politically motivated hate speech on the Internet serves as a role model: Equipped with sufficient human and material resources, it combats online hate efficiently and successfully.

In addition to the necessary increase in human and financial resources, the cooperation of all actors involved plays a central role. Here, too, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia is a role model. Law enforcement agencies, media outlets and civil society work closely together in the “Pursuit Instead of Just Erase” initiative and have had numerous successes. Such approaches must be expanded to the federal level as soon as possible. Effective and legally compliant models must be the basis in the fight against hate crime on the Internet. That people should instead be shaped into transparent citizens says a lot about the government's strategy against right-wing extremism – but unfortunately not a good thing.


. (tagsToTranslate) inventory data (t) federal government (t) data protection (t) hate comments (t) hate speech (t) reporting requirements (t) passwords (t) Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger (t) criminal prosecution (t) Telemedia Act