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.