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Germany approves controversial law.

The German government has passed the "BKA-law," which gives the Federal Criminal Police (BKA) controversial extra powers to fight terrorism.

Among the contested powers is the provision that allows the German police to legally engage in audio and video surveillance of private homes. Searching the databases of private computers via the Internet will also be allowed, though the BKA will not be allowed to break into a suspect's home to install "spy" software, as was originally proposed by Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union.

A last-minute compromise was successfully incorporated into the new law after being approved by a parliamentary arbitration committee. The compromise, demanded by civil liberties advocates, includes a provision that requires a judge to approve all online surveillance operations, even in emergencies. The data must also be evaluated by two BKA officers, in addition to the personal data protection agent, to make sure it does not invade a suspect's privacy.

Despite these safeguards, opponents of the law have already said they intend to appeal it at the constitutional court in Karlsruhe. One concern is that journalists, doctors, and lawyers will be denied the right to refuse testimony under the new law and, therefore, they view it as a serious compromise to their professional responsibilities if they become the target of BKA surveillance themselves. Under the law, however, defense lawyers, religious ministers, and parliamentary representatives will maintain their right to refuse testimony, and will be excluded from surveillance measures.

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Opposition parties have also said they are concerned the new law will allow so-called "dragnet" operations where police download the personal data of innocent people to databases.

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Article Details
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Title Annotation:PRIVACY; Federal Criminal Police Office; BKA-law
Publication:Information Management Journal
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:4EUGE
Date:Mar 1, 2009
Words:270
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