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Transparency report: German authorities mess up

Created at 25.August 2015, 17:00 | Category: Blog

Dear Posteo users,

We would like you to know how often authorities request user information from Posteo. We have therefore today published our transparency report for the year 2014. In the report, we lay out how often German investigative authorities approached us in 2014 – and how often Posteo actually had to release data. The report covers all requests from authorities that Posteo received in the year 2014. Posteo operates more than 100,000 paid email accounts. In 2014, we received 22 requests from authorities. In Germany, there is no such thing as secret requests that are not allowed to be mentioned. You will also find out how often these requests were formally correct and how many of the requests were illegal.

Because almost all requests from authorities that reached Posteo until now were illegal, we devote emphasis to the information process in our report this year. We critique the chaotic circumstances that rule, in particular in requests for user information under § 113 TKG (German telecommunications law). We reveal that grave deficiencies exist in practice, there are regularly breaches of the law and the deficiencies in controls of the situation are becoming even worse. Germany might be known for its exactness, but German authorities have failed miserably at abiding by the legal requirements. Posteo has not yet received any requests from foreign authorities.

To document our critique of the information and surveillance processes, we have today published numerous examples of illegal requests from authorities on our website. In addition, we present our exchanges of correspondence with public positions such as the state privacy officers, the privacy officers of the respective German federal states as well as the respective ministries of justice of the German federal states.

Thus you will obtain an insight into our privacy-oriented work that takes place at Posteo all year round. In addition, we occupy ourselves in the report with the control instrument of the judicial reservation, which is in our view no longer equitable in respect of its intended purpose: in practice, clearly all applications for surveillance in Germany were granted. Although statistics are not even kept to determine the effectiveness of the judicial reservation, we have found numbers that prove this.

The German government meanwhile remains idle, even though it has been informed of some of the grievances for many years and continues to be questioned, as we show in the first part of our report. We demonstrate this with a reply from the Federal Ministry of the Interior that was published last Wednesday (19th August), among other things.

The complete transparency report can now be found on the Posteo website.

We call on Justice Minister Heiko Maas to stop the draft law for the reintroduction of data retention. If the possibilities for surveillance in Germany continue to be enlarged while the deficiencies shown in our transparency report still exist and clearly every application for surveillance is approved, this would be a development that can not be beneficial to democracy.

Note: The German government’s draft law for the planned reintroduction of data retention (“Gesetz zur Einführung einer Speicherpflicht und einer Höchstspeicherfrist für Verkehrsdaten”) currently stipulates that the entire area of email should be exempt from retention. This means that Posteo does not belong to the group of obligated parties. We assume, however, that the introduction of the law would further increase the number of illegal requests for user information made to us.

If you would like to support our work, we would be very pleased if you would circulate our transparency report and the information contained within it, as well as making enquiries with the parties responsible. Last May, Posteo became the first German telecommunications provider to publish a transparency report. With our move, we induced other German providers to in the meantime also publish transparency reports – including, among others, Deutsche Telekom. With our transparency report this year, we would like to contribute to making existing grievances and legal realities public and allowing them to be debated. We want change: the grievances must be eliminated and democratic control of state information processes in Germany must be strengthened.

Best regards,

The Posteo team