What happened online? May 2016

Hubble Refines Distance to the Pleiades Star Cluster / Credit: NASA, ESA and AURA/Caltech

02/05 In 2015 the secret FISA Court approved every warrant request submitted by the authorities. This is the institution which is responsible for issuing warrants for surveillance operations carried out by American intelligence agencies. The total number of such applications was 1,457—100 more than in the previous year.

02/05 In a video-link presentation at the re:publica conference, Edward Snowden described data protection as the precondition for all other basic rights and freedoms. According to the former NSA staffer, the protection of the person and their identity depends upon data protection.

06/05 The existing Eurodac database for asylum seekers is to be expanded. The European Commission has published reform proposals under which photo ID and biometric data should be collected for children from six years of age. Under existing regulations, fingerprints were only taken from asylum applicants from the age of 14.

09/05 The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) publishes the raw data on the Panama Papers. These leaked documents how a worldwide network of shell and offshore companies were used by numerous individuals and companies in an effort to avoid taxation.

11/05 The European Parliament expands the remit of Europol to fighting cross-border criminality and terrorism on the internet. Europol is to create and train special units while cooperating closely with businesses like Google and Facebook.

12/05 The lawyer and human rights advocate Michael Ratner dies at the age of 72. His work has included defending prisoners in Guantanamo and giving legal advice to the whistleblowing platform Wikileaks.

12/05 The German Federal Court has decided in a case regarding file-sharing that house guests and people living in shared accommodation do not need to be instructed prior to being given access to a WLAN network.

12/05 Germany’s Federal Office for Protection of the Constitution does not consider itself responsible for combating most foreign secret service espionage, according to a statement by an employee before a parliamentary committee investigating NSA surveillance practices. This pertains, for example, to the underwater cable which carries international internet traffic from England to the USA, but also to the surveillance of Angela Merkel‘s mobile phone.

13/05 Germany’s Federal Assembly votes to endorse a law requiring collecting societies in Germany such as GEMA and VG Wort to reform their methods for collecting royalties. The process should become more transparent, members should have more influence, and new tariffs should be agreed upon more quickly.

18/05 The Netherlands continues to forge ahead on the issue of net neutrality. The Parliament has decided to prohibit the practice of „zero rating“. This means that in the Netherlands service providers are henceforth prohibited from billing data transfers on any other basis than the data volume of a given tariff.

19/05 The German Federal Minister of the Interior Thomas de Maizière (CDU) and US Justice Minister Loretta Lynch sign an agreement relating to data exchange between the security services of their respective governments, in connection with the fight against terrorism. Information relating to persons “likely to threaten public safety” is to be communicated more easily.

20/05 For the first time, a Higher Regional Court in Germany has admitted controversial dashcam footage as evidence in a case relating to a motoring fine. Previously, district courts had been divided on the issue. Dashcams are video cameras mounted on the dashboard or windscreen of a vehicle.

24/05 Germany comes ninth in a report on digital progress issued by the European Commission. The EC identified room for improvement in four of the five areas studied, citing problems in terms of fibre-optic connection and e-government.

25/05 The G7 states want to designate hacker attacks as being equivalent to a conventional armed attack by a country or terrorist group. In the event of an attack, this would imply a right to self-defense, permitting the use of force against the assailant.

31/05 Sampling can be permitted under certain circumstances according to a judgement by the Federal Constitutional Court in a suit between music producer Moses Pelham and the electro pioneers Kraftwerk. A balance must always be maintained between artistic freedom and copyright. The „Metall auf Metall“ case is now returning to the Federal Court, where it will require an additional ruling.