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Privacy Law Proposals Conjure Ghosts of Germany’s Past

The ugly head of the all-knowing totalitarian state is in danger of rising again if Germany goes ahead with plans to ease the country’s privacy laws in order to combat rising Internet crime, according to nervous telecommunications companies. The government and the police say new rules are needed so that online connection data -- in other words, who is accessing which website -- is automatically stored in case it is eventually needed as evidence in criminal investigations. This would mean a severe relaxing of the laws that were designed in part to banish its Nazi and Communist past. Both telecommunications companies and officials charged with data protection are concerned. "This goes to the very root of a democratic society," said Alexander Dix, commissioner for data protection in the state of Brandenburg. “The Gestapo experience and also the Stasi experience is something which is very present in the public mind here," he told Reuters, referring to the Nazi and East German secret police that made transparency a key factor in their targeting of perceived state enemies.