Somebody has gone nuts

Wednesday, February 21, 2007 at 1:13 | Posted in absurd, e-mail, eu, Germany, internet, privacy | 7 Comments

EU’s Data Retention Directive requires the member countries to adopt laws by 2009 which would put phone companies and ISP’s under obligation to keep detailed records about people’s use of Internet and telephone. According to New York Times (via RA-Blog and Heise Online), the German Ministry of Justice is preparing a legislation which would go far beyond the EU directive. It would also be impossible to enforce, thus making most of the citizens act illegally.

The German proposal would make it illegal to register an e-mail account with false user information. Anything other than the user’s real name would be banned. Aliases would be allowed but they would have to be traceable to the real account holder.

Google’s European privacy counsel Peter Fleischer comments:

“This is an incredibly bad thing in terms of privacy, since people have grown up with the idea that you ought to be able to have an anonymous e-mail account,” Mr. Fleischer said. “Moreover, it’s totally unenforceable and would never work.”

Mr. Fleischer said the law would have to require some kind of identity verification, “like you may have to register for an e-mail address with your national ID card.”

I have one e-mail account which is registered under my real and official first and second name but I have not used it for correspondence in many years. It is hosted by the Estonian phone company Elion’s free mail service The only reason I have not closed the account is that I find it convenient to give it to places that I suspect to generate spam. So that account basically collects spam while my real correspondence goes through Gmail.

That is exactly the stupid part of this proposed law. If German providers are being put under obligation to check the identity of mail account holders, nobody would use a German based e-mail box any more. While Germans are known to be more law-abiding than people in many other countries, they know perfectly well how to get a Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo account.

Internet just can not be regulated the way the German Ministry of Justice seems to be thinking. If they are serious about this then somebody in Berlin must have gone nuts. If it is a joke, it would be a master piece of the oddish sort of German humour which other nationalities often have difficult to laugh at.

Edit: Read also Focus on what’s possible



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  1. Well, it’s data retention put to it’s limits.

  2. Past and beyond any reasonable limits, my friend.

  3. Well, the data to be retained has to be gotten first. That’ the next step on a way into idiocy.

  4. I would call it shooting in one’s own foot. It was not long ago that Ms Merkel spoke warm hearted about “made in Germany” in IT solutions. This is a very effective way to expell web businesses out of Germany which will backfire without mercy.

  5. Well, that’s her way of saying “we don’t want any money”

  6. I do not think the problem would be not wanting the money. The problem is rather that the German federal government does not seem to understand that they actually have to do what they are saying they want to do. Saying that Germany wants IT developers to operate in Germany but acting to the opposite direction suggests that the government does not understand what they are doing and they do not even understand the true meaning of their own statements. And this makes me worried since Germany is the largest member country of EU, currently holding the presidency.

    My comments to Merkel’s IT speech are here.

  7. Kiusaajat vai kansalaiset kuriin?

    Ruotsissa poliisi ei mahda mitään nettikiusaajille, koska laissa säädetty rangaistus ei ole tarpeeksi kova, jotta poliisilla olisi oikeutta edes kysyä IP-osoitetta. Länsinaapurissa keskustellaan nyt lainmuutoksen tarpeesta. Näin sivusta katsoen …

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