German court rules against foreign intelligence mass communication surveillance

FILE PHOTO - The logo of the German Federal Intelligence Agency (BND) is pictured at the 60th anniversary of the founding of the BND in Berlin, Germany, November 28, 2016. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s foreign intelligence agency (BND) must not store the metadata - such as phone numbers - of international phone calls for the purpose of intelligence analysis, a court rules on Thursday.

Surveillance is a sensitive issue in Germany after the abuses by the Gestapo during the Nazi era and the Stasi in Communist East Germany during the Cold War. Whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations about the United States spying on Germany also caused upset.

Media freedom organization Reporters Without Borders filed a lawsuit in June 2015 against the BND, saying it had breached the organization’s secrecy and harmed the partners and reporters it worked with.

“The verdict shows that it pays off when human rights organizations defend themselves against the mass storage of data by the BND,” said Christian Mihr, the organization’s director in Berlin.

Reporters Without Borders said the court decision would strengthen its work because persecuted reporters from authoritarian states have to rely on their communication with the organization remaining confidential.

Asked about the ruling, the BND said it would wait for the verdict’s legal justification to be evaluated.

Reporting By Riham Alkousaa Editing by Jeremy Gaunt.