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German Anti-Terror Data Law Begins Thursday

Feb 28, 20072 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

A law allowing security officials in Germany to create the largest and most comprehensive pool of personal data ever amassed in the country goes into effect Thursday as the European Union’s largest member state moves to protect itself against possible terrorist attacks.The databases of nearly 40 different agencies, including the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) and the Federal Intelligence Service (BND), will be linked to allow authorities to run searches on suspected individuals and retrieve information within minutes.Support for the security measure has grown in Germany and many other E.U. member states that worry about their national security being increasingly threatened by international terrorism, organized crime and illegal immigration.To what extent the numerous databases are already linked—BKA alone has more than 100—and how access to data will be controlled are details the German government isn’t prepared to disclose. What is known is that an expanded index file will be created for suspected terrorists. The file will contain the person’s name, bank account number, telephone number, e-mail address, driver’s license information and other data, including the names of companies, organizations and other parties associated with the person and linked to terrorist groups.Germany is at the forefront of European efforts to fight terrorism.In a December meeting of E.U. justice ministers in Dresden, the German government sought support for a package of measures that could give police and other security forces in the region unprecedented access to a range of individuals’ personal data. The measures, known as the Treaty of Prum after the German town where the accord was signed by several E.U. member states in 2005, would allow police and other security agencies in different countries to search each other’s databases for DNA records, fingerprints, vehicle registrations and other personal information.During its E.U. presidency, Germany hopes to muster enough support to turn the private Treaty of Prum into E.U. law.

John Blau, IDG News Service (Dusseldorf Bureau)