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Germany: Dashcam recordings may be legal evidence

May 15, 2018

Experts in Germany had been unsure about whether recordings of car accidents by dashcams contravened data protection laws. The Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe has provided clarification.

A Dash-Cam in Berlin
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/W. Kumm

Dashcam recordings may be used as evidence following an auto accident, Germany's Federal Court of Justice (BGH) in Karlsruhe ruled on Tuesday.

The ruling clarifies a gray zone of German law after concerns dashcam recordings violated Germany's strict data protection regulations.

Read more: German court to decide if recordings can be used as evidence

The facts of the case:

  • Two vehicles collided in the eastern German city of Magdeburg in Saxony-Anhalt as they were attempting to turn left in separate lanes at an intersection.
  • One of the drivers requested the other pay for damages for apparently veering into the wrong lane. The plaintiff wanted to use a dashcam recording of the incident as evidence in court.
  • A local and regional court rejected the recording on the grounds it broke Germany's data protection law.
  • But the BGH ruled against the two previous decisions. It said that while the data protection law disallowed anyone from constantly recording traffic with their dashcam, the law did not disallow courts to review pictures of the recording as evidence in traffic accident cases.

Made in Germany - The Business Magazine

Read more: Germany's highest court rules IP addresses may be saved in interest of cybersecurity

'Legal uncertainties'

The president of Germany's digital industry association Bitkom, Achim Berg, said the ruling was a step in the right direction, but that drivers in Germany still faced "legal uncertainties" because constant dashcam recordings remained illegal.

German automobile association ACV said the decision had "finally provided a legal framework for the use of dashcams on German roads.

Why would a dashcam recording be illegal? Germany has very strict data protection regulations. The BGH said a recording contravened the Germany's data protection law because people unrelated to the accident were filmed without giving their explicit consent.

Potential solution: The BGH suggested that it is "technically possible" for dashcams to only save footage when an accident has taken place. This could serve as reasonable evidence after an accident and would not break data protection rules.

How many dashcams are there in Germany? According to Bitkom, around 150,000 dashcams were sold in Germany since 2015.

Read more: German data storage laws 'threaten free trade'

Dashcam captures Berlin truck attack

amp/aw (AFP, dpa)