Pirates appeal German law on pre-paid phone IDs to EU

BRUSSELS Sat Aug 18, 2012 12:31am IST

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BRUSSELS Aug 17 (Reuters) - A member of Germany's internet-savvy Pirate Party has appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg over a German law ordering buyers of pre-paid mobile phone cards to give formal identification.

Patrick Breyer, member of northern Germany's Schleswig-Holstein regional parliament, filed the complaint, along with his brother.

They are seeking to resolve the question of whether anonymous communication falls under the European Convention on Human Rights' right to private life.

This latest suit follows a February ruling by Germany's Federal Constitutional Court that it was constitutional for telecommunication providers to demand personal data to set up accounts.

Some European Union countries such as Germany, Denmark, and France, have outlawed anonymous pre-paid cards to prevent their use in criminal activities, but the Pirate Party says that stifles a citizen's right to privacy and free speech.

"Now that big data is becoming the norm, we need to build anonymity into our society, not out of our society. The ability to stay anonymous and choose anonymity is crucial for creativity and social development," Swedish Pirate Party MEP Amelia Andersdotter told Reuters on Friday.

Separately, members of the Pirates party in Germany said on Friday they had also filed charges against the finance minister of North Rhine-Westphalia over the state's purchase of leaked Swiss bank data to pursue tax evaders.

Germany's Breyer said in a statement that anonymous phone calls were important for a range of legitimate activities, from protecting journalistic sources to confidential business dealings.

He added that bans on anonymous purchasing do nothing to prevent identity theft or the buying of cards by third parties.

EU states have been seeking to strike a balance between retaining data for use by law enforcement agencies and maintaining digital users' right to be forgotten in the bloc's review of data protection legislation.

Private companies are also facing scrutiny as technology has improved the ease of monitoring previously anonymous data traffic.

The Washington Post reported in July that popular internet chat software Skype had made changes to make it easier for law enforcement authorities to monitor calls.

Skype, owned by Microsoft since 2011, denied the claims saying that changes to their software architecture were part of a planned upgrade to improve user experience and reliability.

The European Court will review Breyer's complaint, but said a verdict could take up to three years. (Editing by Patrick Graham)

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