(Edited from AP) Germany’s highest court on Tuesday overturned a law that let anti-terror authorities retain data on telephone calls and e-mails, saying it marked a “grave intrusion” into personal privacy rights and must be revised.

(Edited from AP) Germany’s highest court on Tuesday overturned a law that let anti-terror authorities retain data on telephone calls and e-mails, saying it marked a “grave intrusion” into personal privacy rights and must be revised.

 

The court ruling was the latest to sharply criticize a major initiative by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government and one of the strongest steps yet defending citizen rights from post-Sept. 11 terror-fighting measures.

 

The ruling comes amid a Europe-wide attempt to set limits on the digital sphere in the name of protecting privacy. That includes disputes with Google Inc. over photographing citizens for its Street View maps and a vote against letting U.S. authorities see European bank transfers to track down terror cells.

 

The Federal Constitutional Court ruled that the law violated Germans’ constitutional right to private correspondence and failed to balance privacy rights against the need to provide security. It did not, however, rule out data retention in principle.

 

The law had ordered that all data – except content – from phone calls and e-mail exchanges be retained for six months for possible use by criminal authorities, who could probe who contacted whom, from where and for how long.

 

“The disputed instructions neither provided a sufficient level of data security, nor sufficiently limited the possible uses of the data,” the court said, adding that “such retention represents an especially grave intrusion.”

 

Nearly 35,000 Germans had appealed to the court to overturn the law, which stems from a 2006 European Union anti-terrorism directive requiring telecommunications companies to retain phone data and Internet logs for a minimum six months in case they are needed for criminal investigations.

 

The decision in Germany, a consumer rights federation spokesman, Sanchez, said “might serve as a wake-up call for governments not to overdo things.”

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