Court Says German Intelligence Agency Can No Longer Hoard Billions Of Metadata Records

from the collect?-possibly.-dig-through?-no. dept

A two-year legal battle of German intelligence agency metadata collections has ended. And the German Federal Intelligence (BND) agency has lost.

Germany’s foreign intelligence agency (BND) must not store the metadata – such as phone numbers – of international phone calls for the purpose of intelligence analysis, a court rules on Thursday.


Media freedom organization Reporters Without Borders filed a lawsuit in June 2015 against the BND, saying it had breached the organization’s secrecy and harmed the partners and reporters it worked with.

This is a big decision — somewhat on par with the revamp of the Section 215 metadata program here in the US that took place following the Snowden leaks. But it might be bigger than that. BND collects over 11 billion records every year. And it shares this haul with the NSA and GCHQ.

This was revealed via documents leaked to German news agency Die Zeit. The BND was grabbing metadata at a rate of 220 million records per day. This is only a small part of the BND’s haul, much of which appears to be harvested from internet cables and satellite transmissions.

These revelations caused some problems for the German government, which has generally been careful to keep Stasi comparisons to a minimum. The BND claimed these collections were lawful, but top government officials weren’t so sure. This lawsuit appears to have settled the “metadata” question at least.

The end of this legal battle bears some resemblance to Section 215 v. 2.0 here in the US. The Reuters report says the BND will no longer be able to “store” metadata records for intelligence analysis. There appears to be no restraint on collecting records, which likely means the BND will need to approach companies directly to obtain metadata. This means some semblance of targeting will be shoehorned into the BND’s collection system and that metadata interception (in bulk) from internet cables is no longer an option.

It’s a small win but it’s a good one. And I’m sure it surprised the hell out of the intelligence agency. But thanks to Ed Snowden and other leakers, bulk surveillance — especially the kind that sweeps up domestic data — is no longer acceptable.

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Comments on “Court Says German Intelligence Agency Can No Longer Hoard Billions Of Metadata Records”

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“BND collects over 11 billion records every year. And it shares this haul with the NSA and GCHQ.”

Does this mean that specific information is available upon request, or that a massive stream of German-collected data is “stovepiped” directly to NSA storage facilities, in a kind of end-run around FISA restrictions?

This is said to be one of the biggest loopholes of FISA, which prohibits US spy agencies from conducting domestic mass-surveillance themselves, but does not restrict them from accepting “wiretapped” data on US citizens collected by overseas spy agencies.



Does this mean that specific information is available upon request, or that a massive stream of German-collected data is "stovepiped" directly to NSA storage facilities, in a kind of end-run around FISA restrictions?

If the latter, that would be a major loophole to this ruling wouldn’t it? Sure, the BND can’t store the data, but if they funnel it to the NSA what does it matter?

What’s the general feeling on whether the BND will actually comply, or just redefine their way around it like the NSA? Their BND’s statement that they "would wait for the verdict?s legal justification to be evaluated" doesn’t fill me with hope. I mean, didn’t the court just evaluate that for them?

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