Massive Data Retention Protests Hit Germany, Expected to Spread Across Europe

Imagine that every phone call, fax, e-mail, instant message and packet of information that you sent and received was captured by your government and stored for two years, regardless of whether or not a crime was committed.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

Now imagine thousands of Germans marching in protest. The German protests took place over last weekend with the European wide protest expected to commence in September 20th.

The Stoppt Die Vorratsdatenspeicherung has announced the “Freedom, Not Fear” 2008 national day of action. Reports have surfaced that suggest the day of action was major success.

The protests were sparked by the fact that the Directive on Mandatory Retention of Communications Traffic Data was passed by the European Union. What this allows is essentially data flowing through all forms of communication including text messages, landline conversations, instant messaging, email, etc. for a period of two years. The idea was that if there was a data retention directive, all terrorist activities and other forms of crime would also be recorded, thus easily assisting law enforcement to prevent crimes and terrorism. Of course, this also encroaches on personal privacy which is why there were protests going to take place in the first place.

Protests were held in numerous cities across Germany. Here is the complete list:
– Aachen
– Augsburg
– Berlin
– Bielefeld
– Bonn
– Bremen
– Braunschweig
– Düsseldorf
– Frankenberg
– Frankfurt
РG̦ttingen
– Grünberg (Mittelhessen)
– Hamburg
– Heilbronn
– Ingolstadt
– Jena
– Karlsruhe
– Kiel
РK̦ln
– Lengerich
– Mannheim
– Marburg
– München
– Münster
– Norden bei Aurich
– Nürnberg
– Oldenburg (Oldenbg.)
– Osnabrück
– Potsdam
– Regensburg
– Siegen
– Stuttgart
– Tübingen
– Ulm

The EFF also covered this story prior to the day of action and noted, “”Freedom Not Fear” is not a small event: over 20,000 people demonstrated in the last protest in September, and over thirty cities will be taking part in this weekend’s demonstrations. The organizers hope to expand across Europe for an even larger protest on September 20th of this year.”

The report afterwards says the following (Google Translation from German):

As in November 2007 were held under the motto “Freedom instead of fear” in Germany thousands of students. In over 30 cities continued with numerous demonstrations, rallies and information sessions and workshops and art actions clear signals for the preservation of fundamental rights and against excessive surveillance.

In Munich alone, says the report, there were over 2,500 demonstrators. A photo gallery wiki of the protests was also posted Also from the report:

In Jena were oversized surveillance cameras set up in Berlin there was a colourful programme of lectures, Mitmachworkshops and the presentation of various works of art, including a preview of the action work of art “Pigeon Project”

Apparently, there is a new law known as the “Assembly Prevention Act” which many protesters were also opposed to. An online petition was posted. The hope is to get 50,000 signatures by the first of July. Currently, there are almost 6,200 signatures as of this writing. A copy of the legislation was also posted (PDF – German)

As already mentioned, there are more protests expected, but this time, all across Europe. As Michel Blumenstein put it, “This is just the beginning” The plan is to hold protests across Europe on the 20th of September. Information on the plans is currently available on the websites wiki. Presently, demonstrations are expected in Berlin, but the hope is likely that more European cities will also join in the day of protest. Contact information and ideas are also available on the Wiki.

If anything at all, this whole thing proves that many countries around the world are currently dealing with network surveillance. It’s not just an issue in the United States for example. It’ll be interesting to see how privacy activism spreads throughout Europe.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.



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