Germany May Legalize Spying on Personal Messages, Fingerprinting Children
After a spike in deadly terror attacks across Europe, Germany is considering a new law that would allow authorities to monitor encrypted private messages and fingerprint asylum seekers as young as six years old.
The announcement was made on Wednesday following the final government gathering before a national election in September in which German Chancellor Angela Merkel is seeking a fourth term in office.
Ministers from the central government and federal states said that in order to boost security and counter growing threats from terrorist organizations, militants and criminals should be deprived of the means to evade traditional surveillance.
"We can't allow there to be areas that are practically outside the law," Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told reporters, specifically referring to encrypted messaging applications such as WhatsApp and Signal.
If the new law comes into action, technology companies will be forced to provide German authorities with front doors to smartphones and backdoors into messaging services, allowing them to monitor all communications.
The proposed measures also include lowering the age limit for fingerprinting minors from 14 to six years old for refugees.
Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann, a Merkel supporter whose southeastern state is the entry point for many asylum seekers fleeing their war-torn home countries in the Middle East, said on June 3 that he would recommend security services be given the right to spy on children.
That advice was met with criticism by children rights' advocates, who claim that authorities should be protecting children rather than spying on them.
"Children are victims of extremism," said Social Democrat Family Affairs Minister Katharina Barley.
Additionally, German ministers agreed to improve communications between regional and national police and investigation agencies in the highly decentralized country.