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German Police Seeks Legal Permission for Online House Search

Germany's police and secret services are seeking a legal recognition for searching suspects over the Internet with the help of a spyware that would function like a Trojan.

In February 2007, a German court had dismissed a decision of the Police to keep an eye on the hard drives of the suspects' computer via the Internet. The Karlsuhe Federal Court of Justice prohibits police from using software to remotely track hard drives unless parliament explicitly permits the technique by passing a law for it.

The German public in November 2006 became aware that such a practice existed when a magistrate of the Bundesgerichtsh passed a decision that there was no legal recognition for such practices within police investigation.

Magistrate Ulrich Hebenstreit said there could only be open house searches by informing the suspect. In his opinion and as per legal rules, secret probe into hard drives whether for commercial use or otherwise was a major intervention in the right to informational self-determination, reported The Register on its website, February 27, 2007.

With such searches on hard drives it could telecommand the whole computer, turn on the webcam, and supervise the room acoustically and then follow with e-mail and chats, said Brigitte Zypries, Minister of Justice and member of Social Democrats, reported The Register.

The decision comes after a request by the Federal Prosecutor's Office, which wanted to plant Torjan horses on PCs to make inquiries about a possible terrorist gang. Prosecutors argued that the permission for telephone surveillance and other electronic intercepting techniques should replace evidence collection via the Internet.

While the Home Office insisted immediate halt to online searches, spokesman Christian Sachs informed that a certain organizational unit at the Federal Criminal Office in Bunderkriminalamt was assessing the technical aspects in support for online house searches. Obviously, there cannot be any comments on technicalities, according to The Register.

Jorg Ziercke, president of Bunderkriminalamt is convinced that the 'Federal Trojan', (name for the project), is essential, as legal seizure of hard drives can serve no purpose. Since they store their data on the Web and encrypt the hard drive, it is necessary to access from the point they scatter, he said.

Related article: Germany Restricts Anti-Hacking Legalization

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