Austria's Top Court Says Police May Not Install Surveillance Malware On Computers And Phones, Nor Collect Vehicle And Driver Information Covertly

from the serious-interference-in-the-private-sphere dept

One of the features of surveillance in Germany is the routine use of malware to spy on its citizens. The big advantage for the authorities is that this allows them to circumvent end-to-end encryption. By placing spy software on the user’s equipment, the police are able to see messages in an unencrypted form. Austrian police were due to start deploying malware in this way next year. But in a welcome win for digital rights, Austria’s top court has just ruled its use unconstitutional (in German). The Austrian Constitutional Court based its judgment on the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR — pdf). The Web site of the Austrian national public service broadcaster ORF reported the court as ruling:

“The covert surveillance of the use of computer systems” constitutes a “serious interference” in the private sphere, as protected by the ECHR, and “is in the opinion of the Constitutional Court permitted only within tightly-defined limits in order to protect correspondingly important assets”. [The Constitutional Court’s Vice-President] Grabenwarter acknowledged that innocent third parties may also be affected by other surveillance measures such as CCTV and observation teams. However, the covert infiltration of computer systems involves a “significantly wider impact”.

Austrian police were to have been given the right to install malware as part of a broader “security package” — called a “surveillance package” by its critics — passed by the Austrian parliament last year (in German). Other new powers included the right to break into private homes in order to install malware, and permission to gather covertly information about vehicles and their drivers from automated surveillance systems on roads. Austria’s Constitutional Court has struck down all of those too. Although the ruling only applies within Austria, it means that the use of malware by the police and intelligence agencies in the EU will be supported by fewer national governments than before, making it harder to bring in any new EU laws authorizing their use across the region.

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Comments on “Austria's Top Court Says Police May Not Install Surveillance Malware On Computers And Phones, Nor Collect Vehicle And Driver Information Covertly”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

It was really from the beginning posed as a question maybe they don’t like surveillance because of brutally painful memories, but in pure arrogant shithead sarcastic techdirt style, you just want to add your worthless gop which has even less value than the original comment, admittedly. I hope you get the chinese flu dickmunch.

Dave P. says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Lovely choice of words – for an obvious retard. I drive for a living, transporting autistic kids and I have heard more sense from them that I doubt whether you would ever be able to match in the whole of your misguided lifetime. I suspect Trump has you in his sights for the position of head of his pig-ignorance and bigotry department, although he’s not doing a bad job of that all by himself. Perhaps you could be his specialist insult advisor but I would keep a bar of soap handy for washing out your putrid little mouth every now and again.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

"You’d think they would have taught that in history class or something!"

They do. Austrian and German schools are very clear about the atrocities the nazis perpetrated. Lest they forget.

There are volumes written about the nazi rise to power, from an unimportant corner shop hate association into the sole political party in Austria and Germany. If they aren’t teaching any of it in schools then that speaks more of the quality of that schools education than it does of anything else.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

"Whoosh! Someone needs to recalibrate their sarcasm detector."

Courtesy of the resident copyright maximalist troll known here as Bobmail/Out_of_the_blue/Jhon Smith/Herrick there is literally nothing you can say around here, no matter how obviously idiotic or outrageous, which won’t just look exactly like what that guy’s written in earnest.

Thanks to Poe’s Law, then, you’ll need to put a /s to connotate sarcasm because you truly can not make it obvious enough. Just sayin’.

Wyrm (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Actually, I’ll side with the previous AC on this.
Godwin’s law is more about comparing someone to nazis or Hitler in order to discredit his arguments. (i.e. if he told someone "wow, you just sounded like a nazi", that would be worth a Godwin point.)
This is about making a comparison to WWII to explain why Austria might feel uncomfortable with the idea of secret surveillance. And I think he might be right. WWII has left several countries pretty much traumatized for decades. I wouldn’t be surprised that this move by the Austrian police triggered a trauma from Nazi surveillance. It being justified or not is a different question.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

This is a rhetoric question:

How come they always talk about bringing the rule of Law to the Internet but always forget about the guarantees that are supposed to go with it?

This time the Constitutional Court did their job. What would have happened if they didn’t?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

"they always talk about bringing the rule of Law to the Internet"

Bring? As in civil law suit?
Possibly what you have espoused is the desire of some to re write the laws such that they benefit unfairly by making things criminal rather than civil, On The Internet.
Why use your own money to defend your "intellectual property" when you can get the proles to pay for it … and they see nothing wrong with this while at the same time screaming about having to pay for some one else’s life saving procedure.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

The term carpetbaggers refers to private individuals (not government) who came from the north to a southern town, after the civil war ended, with the intention of grabbing all they could get with little regard for the laws.
I had not heard of its use in historical reference to anything out west, but I suppose it has become a generic derogatory term.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

"The term carpetbaggers refers to private individuals (not government) who came from the north to a southern town, after the civil war ended, with the intention of grabbing all they could get with little regard for the laws."

Actually the term was used for ANY northerner who went south after the fall of the confederacy but it was applied most frequently, with particular venom (and today, very ironically) towards northern republicans in the rebuilding effort.

I have no doubt there were opportunists moving from north to south after the war but it was pretty clear that the former slaveholders of the confederacy mounted a pretty persistent smear campaign towards the victorious north in order to make the reconstruction that much harder.

The terms "carpetbagger" and "scalawag" were heftily used about northern republican politicians and southern republicans respectively and used to link them to profiteers and exploiters.

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