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German court outlaws storage of telephony metadata by intelligence agencies

Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), is not allowed to save the meta-data from international phone calls for intelligence purposes as there is no legal basis for the practice, ruled the country’s Federal Administrative Court in a recent verdict. 

The court ruled against the BND’s practice of storing and analyzing this meta-data, including the telephone numbers of call participants, in its VerAS database, even if the BND stored this information anonymously as this was not the same as deleting this information. 

The verdict is likely to play a role in future legal disputes over the use of metadata in Germany, reported German media outlet Heise Online. The case was brought by the advocacy organization Reporters Without Borders in 2015, which said the BND’s practice violated the organization’s secrecy and could harm journalists and other partners it works with.

The organization argued against the storage and analysis of its internet and email metadata in addition to its telephony metadata. But because the BND’s VerAS data system only stores telephony metadata, the court dismissed the sections of the complaint dealing with internet and email metadata. 

As a result, Reporters Without Borders filed a complaint at the European Court of Human Rights at the beginning of December in an attempt to prohibit the analysis of all metadata, wrote Heise Online.


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