Data Retention Effectively Changes the Behavior of Citizens in Germany

A new survey shows that data retention laws influence the actual behavior of citizens in Germany. 11% had already abstained from single telecommunication acts, 52% would not use phone or e-mail for confidential contacts.

The problem with surveillance is not primarily that some bored officer might learn about some embarrassing private detail (although this is a problem as well). The fundamental problem with surveillance is that it changes people. People under surveillance behave differently than people who are not monitored – differently than free people.

Unfortunately, this fundamental problem has just been proven in Germany. Since the beginning of this year, communication providers are required to record who communicated with whom and when (but not the content of the communication). This data is stored for six months and available to law enforcement in cases related to certain forms of crime.

A recent survey (German) by the well-known German Forsa institute now showed the social effects of this data retention law: Communication habits are indeed changing.

1.002 individuals have been questioned on May 27th and 28th. These are the results:

  • 73% know about the data retention
  • 11% said that they had already abstained from using phone, cell phone or e-mail in certain occasions
  • 6% believe to receive less communication since the beginning of the data retention
  • 52% said they probably would not use telecommunication for contacts like drug counselors, psychotherapists or marriage counselors because of data retention

And the sad fact: 48% still think that data retention is a necessary step for crime prevention.

"The deterring effects of this law is life threatening, for example if people do not call a drug counselor or psychotherapist" claims Patrick Breyer of  Arbeitskreis Vorratsdatenspeicherung, a network of civil rights and privacy activists.

Thomas Dreesen of the association of German specialized journalists is also worried: “Against the background of [the abuse of communication data by Germany’s largest telephone provide] it is obvious how easily such data can be abused to spy out journalists and expose whistle blowers. The law […] therefore threatens the freedom of press in Germany”

The study was commissioned by Arbeitskreis Vorratsdatenspeicherung [a network of civil rights and privacy activists], ,, NULL, eco [German ISP and Internet Association], Deutscher Fachjournalisten-Verband [German association of specialized journalists] and JonDos GmbH [an anonymizer company].

42 replies on “Data Retention Effectively Changes the Behavior of Citizens in Germany”

No tengo nada que esconder…

Según un estudio realizado en Alemania al menos un 11% de ciudadanos han cambiado sus costumbres en relación a las conversaciones por teléfono móvil o correo electrónico debido las nuevas leyes de supervisión de las comunicaciones. A pesar de que…

“People under surveillance behave differently than people who are not monitored – differently than free people.”

Yes, and this is usually the purpose, even if they say different when suggesting wiretapping, like they do in a massive scale in Sweden right now (it will affect others than swedes too). Except in one case, when they want to put up CCTV cameras on public places, on those occasions they cannot deny it and uses the behavior change as an argument.

A related problem is that when you visit a website your IP address (and more more or less personal information) is going to be recorded in several places.

But that seems impossible to handle.


I agree that fear of blackmail by governments and corrupt officials is a major reason why people are against data retention, however, I believe the issue is deeper. Many of us live in fascist countries where all-powerful governments dictate the law. These laws change over time, and activities that were not illegal often become illegal with time. As a result, data retention allows governments to punish ‘dissenters’ for actions they committed in the past, even if their actions were not criminal at the time they were committed.

@No.14: Indeed, using tor is completely legal in Germany, no problem there.

@No.11: TOR does not solve all you problems. First you have to cope with the fact that your transfer rate struggles to reach ISDN speed, or double-ISDN speed, if you are lucky (about 128kbaud).
Second, there are several ways to deanonymize TOR traffic such as timing attacks and other. Those attacks are fairly trivial only if the attacker controls the entire communication network, which no possible attacker does currently, as our network is the internet. So at the time being, this is irrelevant to your average user, as every possible attack requires a fairly large effort to conduct.
So just keep this in mind if you are doing things via tor that might interest people with a huge amount of computing-/manpower and funding at hand.
just my 0.02EUR

People must wake up to the systematic removal of their democracy, rights and freedoms.

These actions across the world by the new “Gestapo” have nothing to do with your security, but that of the “New World Order”, the real people running the European “Soviet” Union!

If your Government supports this undemocratic and unaccountable corrupt organisation then they are opposed to democracy and therefore, enemies of the people.

Use your Vote to rid your Government of traitors before it is too late!

I wanted to research this subject and write a paper. Your post what a thousand words would not. Nice job.

I didn’t know that e-mails were tracked also, and I find it interesting that people call less and talk less on the phone or e-mail. Every person has their private things and people have to understand that this is so much data that becomes uninteresting in the broad scope of things.

The people that should have more fear are the ones that are conducting illegal activities and not the general population.

Thanks for sharing regarding Germany’s Data Retention, good post!

I think data storage is necessary for least 1 year if a problem occur or any other incident then we can trace from the store data.

I agree with anwait.

The 2006 movie Das Leben der Anderen shows how a secret service agent in the DDR gets involved with the lives of the people he is tapping. I can imagine that especially former DDR inhabitants take extra care with this kind of measure.

In a free society there is no (positive) right to privacy, but there is a (negative) right for private companies and citizens to be left alone from governmental requirements to hand out data.

The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution has an internal document (it was leaked) that mentions some methods the Office would like to be allowed to use. They e.g. want to have access on the mentioned data retention stuff.

This is especially a problem when you think about a case in which a German couple was observed the whole day because the police thought he was a terrorist, but they had mixed something up with the suspects… And usually the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution also needs to find out who COULD be dangerous, not just observe people who PROBABLY are dangerous…

Stasi 2.0! We have to take care that the laws of the country are maximizing our liberty. If the laws are in line with classical liberalism/libertarianism, it will become in our interest that objective crimes will be punished. And to do that, the police must become free from all former Stasi agents. Then they can have all the data from peaceful citizenz they need. Think in political systems when evaluating actions from the government!

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