German Police May Not Sneak Into PCs; Orders Court
The German High Court has prohibited police from planting spyware on the PCs of suspected criminals without informing them; unless parliament legislates a law explicitly permitting it. Karlsruhe's Federal Court of Justice has decided to ban police from installing the online Trojan horse program that involves the method of using a program to hunt for data in remote hard drives via the Internet.
The decision was announced on February 5 2007, which came as a blow for the German Interior Minister, Wolfgang Schauble who had planned to empower the Federal criminal Police Office (BKA) to monitor online activities of terrorists and other criminals and sneak inside their computer systems.
Two judges had disagreed to allowing police to hack into computers of suspected criminals by installing spyware. In February this year, while one judge approved police hacking the second judge barred it resulting in federal prosecutors' appeal.
The Karlsruhe High Court put the point that searching computers is no different from searching homes, a practice in which the police in Germany need to follow certain procedures such as acquiring a search warrant and informing the suspects of the search.
The judges' other viewpoint was that Germany's strict phone-tapping laws cannot permit the police to hack computers and that a proper legislation supporting such surveillance was required.
The decision was a result of a request by the Federal Prosecutor's Office, which wanted to install a Trojan horse application on the computers of a possible terrorist group as part of an investigation. Prosecutors said gathering evidence from the Internet should be the practice rather than telephone surveillance and electronic eavesdropping.
Although the decision entails many problems in 'evidence accumulation', the prosecutors welcomed the announcement, saying it made the issue more clear. Officials also encouraged legislation allowing remote searches.
In 2006, Schauble sought the German Parliament's approval for 132 million euros (US $171 million) for initiating the 'Program for Strengthening Domestic Security' giving additional powers of Internet-based remote monitoring to BKA. While the police union supported the minister, members of the opposition from Left Party and Free Democrats supported the court's decision to campaign civil liberty.
Related article: Germany Restricts Anti-Hacking Legalization
» SPAMfighter News - 12-02-2007