Fri, Mar. 03, 2006

Law Drops EMail

CJ - Washington.   On March 2, 2006, the Constitutional Supreme Court in Karlsruhe announced its decision on a constitutional complaint of a judge from Heidelberg concerning the secrecy of telecommunication, a constitutional right embodied in Art. 10(1) of the German constitution, Grundgesetz, in the matter 2 BvR 2099/04.

The justices held that secrecy of telecommunication extends only to the transmission of communications. Such protection expires with the termination of the transmission.

The court decided that electronic data such as stored EMails which result from a completed transmission of data and are saved on the addressee's system are not protected by the secrecy principle governing telecommunications. With such data, the right of self-determination, Art. 2(1), Art. 1 (1) of the constitution, Grundgesetz, controls.

In addition, the rule of secrecy does not protect any data--beyond EMail--archived by the recipient on a hard drive as a result of a transmission, for instance a data file in local storage after having been downloaded from the internet. The court published a decision and a press release.

In the instant case, the investigation against the Heidelberg judge could not extend to the EMail stored on the judge's home PC as a result of the rule protecting informational self-determination, not because of the principle protecting the secrecy of communications. There was insufficient cause to search her PC, the court determined.


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