German Court of First Instance Issues Major Ruling Upholding Right Against Government Surveillance on Sidewalks

disLEXia 3000 blog reports on what sounds like a major German court decision on privacy in public places.

Court: leave unobserved areas for pedestrians
Heise is reporting that a german court just ordered a shop to stop complete camera surveillance of the sidewalk/ambulatory around their premises. The court upheld that this even is the case if the sidewalk is owned by the shop but used by the general public for passage.

In any cases there must exist a “tunnel” of unsurveillanced ground where people can pass through.

If this judgment is upheld major parts of our cities should see dismantling of thousands of cameras.

Oh, how I wish I read German! The Heise article gets mangled less than usual by the Babelfish (see extended entry), but it's still mangled. And there appear to be a court decision and a decision of Privacy Commissioners somewhere too…

For starters, I'd like to know the legal basis of this decision. Is it the German Constitution? A statute? A local ordinance? Something at the Euro-level (surely not the toothless data protection directive)?

Here's the babelfish rendering of the Hesse article:

Judgement limits video monitoring

For the public accessible sidewalks may be supervised not completely with video cameras. This decided the district court Berlin center on Thursday. The judgement could have signal effect, because in opinion of the data-security commissioners the video monitoring of public areas takes ever more over hand.

The judge forbade , an animated and arcade belonging to the business to the culture department store Dussmann at the citizens of Berlin Friedrichstrasse surface covering from electronic eyes beschatten to leave. Maximally the sidewalk may be taken to an extent by a meter in the camera visor, is called it in the arbitral award with the file reference 16 C 427/02. A complete monitoring of the passage considered the court also illegal if the controlled ranges in the property of a private business. In any case unobserved tunnel for passanten is to be kept free.

The judgement is a Schlappe for the Dussmann group, since it offers safety engineering and building management also as service. Had complained a citizen of Berlin journalist, who felt hurt with the course to the work and to administrative authorities in center by the constantly running along camera in its fundamental rights. It was supported by the Humanisti union. The speaker of the citizen right organization, Nile Leopold, was pleased opposite heise on-line about the erstrittenen “partial success”. Now not only Dussmann would have DaimlerChrysler in “its” quarter at the Potsdamer place the imported system, but for example also for video monitoring completely to consider and arrange new.

Completely Leopold is content however not yet. For the citizen is not recognizable his opinion after with the permitted monitoring area of a meter “, to which extent a camera films”. The Humanisti union therefore examines whether it is to forestall Dussmann and request for their part an appointment. “the judge saw further clearance with the decision”, believes Leopold to have determined. Penetrating of the video monitoring into ever more public areas is altogether violently disputed. The police and the Ministers of the Interior see therein a suitable means for effective prosecution, while data-security commissioners are afraid the structure of uncontrollable video archives and possible couplings with biometric methods of analysis for the identification of individuals. (Stefan Krempl) / (ad/c't)

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3 Responses to German Court of First Instance Issues Major Ruling Upholding Right Against Government Surveillance on Sidewalks

  1. Pingback: disLEXia 3000

  2. See section 6b of the German Federal Data Protection Act, English translation available at

  3. Nils Leopold says:

    I would like to add to the report, that the case against the Dussmann-Gruppe was supported by the Humanistische Union (Humanist Union – the oldest german civil rights organization founded 1962 in Munich)which is something comparable to the ACLU, but in German – smaller dimensions.

    It will be decided until the end of January, whether there will be “Berufung” which has been explicitly ben admitted by the judge. The Berufung is the court of next instance at which the parties can bring the whole case anew.
    I can bew reached – for further comments on the decision – here in Berlin via mail


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