Germany Allows Police To Hack Phones, PCs To Get Around Encryption

Last week the German Parliament passed a law that allows hack your computer or phone when investigating anything from murder to betting fraud and many other crimes.

How would this work?  It would allow police to covertly install software on your computer or phone that allows police to siphon data off your phone.  Whether that breaks your phone or steals data that they are not supposed to have – well, that is up in the air.

This is a way to get around the encryption of data and it if done right, is very effective.  Instead of putting a back door in the encryption algorithms, which experts say will weaken protection for everyone, this solution targets on the suspects of crimes.  Of course, it means that the police have to figure out how to hack your phone.

When this law goes into effect, the protections for privacy that German citizens have will be much lower because the bar for allowing the police to hack your phone are relatively low.

Germany has had, until now, a pretty high standard for individual privacy after a 2008 decision by the German Federal Constitutional Court .  What is not clear is whether this law will be in conflict with that ruling and how the high court would rule if asked to.

Similar to the U.S. Congress, the German Parliament sneaked the rules into seemingly unrelated bills and amendments and fast tracked those bills through the legislature.

While we have not seen this technique in the U.S. Congress yet, don’t be surprised if that happens.  Look at the current attempt at a new health care bill.  Draft it in secret – even from your own party – and then try to shove it down the throats of the rank and file very quickly.  While that has not worked so far with the health care bill, that is because Senators have gotten more than an ear full from the constituents.  Absent public interest, these types of bills sail through Congress and then it is up to the courts to sort out the mess.

Information for this post came from the law firm of Morrison Foerster.

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