Surveillance and Democracy (Glasshouse Books)


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In Germany it is the same, say Heumann and Scott. The sessions of the German equivalent, the G parliamentary commission, are also held in secret. In all three countries, the legal frameworks regulating surveillance are much too vague and broad.

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The study's authors note that the German G law — just like laws in the US — only protects residents in Germany. But as soon as these people communicate with someone outside of the country, this communication is not covered by the law and can be intercepted.

Conversations and messages that cross borders are not subject to any control mechanisms. In practice, the BND operates at this point in a legal vacuum. In Germany, the federal chancellery is also responsible for regulating the BND. But public trust in this body's resolve to impose limitations on the intelligence agency has been shaken — not least by suggestions back in August that the NSA scandal had been laid to rest without the need for further investigation. The laws are formulated for the most part so broadly that they leave the intelligence services a lot of scope to interpret their mandates.

How exactly the intelligence agencies interpret their powers is often classified information, and as such is not understandable for the public.

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Technological development has meant it is now possible to mount surveillance on many things. Given that when filtering internet data in real time it is rarely possible to differentiate immediately between domestic and foreign communications, everything is recorded first and only then sorted into data that can be evaluated and that which cannot.

With their study, Heumann and Scott want to lay the foundations for an international debate on surveillance. They suggest how services and laws can be altered to strengthen privacy rights. This reform, they conclude, is urgently needed.

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This article was originally published on Zeit Online. Translation by Josie Le Blond.

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Heumann summarises: "In the United States, Britain and Germany, most of the legal foundations for surveillance measures by intelligence agencies date from a time when the internet played a subsidiary role in communications. Topics NSA Opinion. US national security Germany Europe Internet comment. Reuse this content. The study's authors note that the German G law — just like laws in the US — only protects residents in Germany. But as soon as these people communicate with someone outside of the country, this communication is not covered by the law and can be intercepted.

Conversations and messages that cross borders are not subject to any control mechanisms. In practice, the BND operates at this point in a legal vacuum.

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In Germany, the federal chancellery is also responsible for regulating the BND. But public trust in this body's resolve to impose limitations on the intelligence agency has been shaken — not least by suggestions back in August that the NSA scandal had been laid to rest without the need for further investigation. The laws are formulated for the most part so broadly that they leave the intelligence services a lot of scope to interpret their mandates.

How exactly the intelligence agencies interpret their powers is often classified information, and as such is not understandable for the public.

Technological development has meant it is now possible to mount surveillance on many things. Given that when filtering internet data in real time it is rarely possible to differentiate immediately between domestic and foreign communications, everything is recorded first and only then sorted into data that can be evaluated and that which cannot. With their study, Heumann and Scott want to lay the foundations for an international debate on surveillance.

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They suggest how services and laws can be altered to strengthen privacy rights. This reform, they conclude, is urgently needed.


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This article was originally published on Zeit Online. Translation by Josie Le Blond. Heumann summarises: "In the United States, Britain and Germany, most of the legal foundations for surveillance measures by intelligence agencies date from a time when the internet played a subsidiary role in communications. Topics NSA Opinion.

US national security Germany Europe Internet comment.

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