German media report that police in Thuringia secretly recorded tens of thousands of calls over a period of years. According to the public broadcaster MDR, that included conversations with state prosecutors.
Police in the eastern state of Thuringia secretly recorded tens of thousands of service calls over a period of years, the public broadcaster MDR reported on Wednesday. Those calls are believed to include conversations with lawyers, social workers, justice officials and journalists.
Dirk Adams, the leader of the Greens in the state parliament, told MDR that the eavesdropping and recording was, "in terms of data protection law, fully unacceptable."
The state's data protection commission is looking into the allegations, and the public prosecutor's office in the capital, Erfurt, announced that there were two active criminal complaints against the police practice. Lutz Hasse, the Thuringia data protection commissioner, said it remained unclear if the recording was an isolated problem or if it had become systemwide. He said it would be necessary to delete illegally recorded calls, but that he did not suspect "a sinister purpose."
Violation of procedure
MDR cited a 1999 document in which the state Interior Ministry called for an automatic recording function to be installed for certain police telephone numbers. According to the ministry, only emergency calls are automatically recorded.
Ministry spokesman Oliver Löhr said calls were recorded by shift leaders, a position filled 24 hours a day that receives both emergency and nonemergency calls, but that no difference was apparently made between the two. Löhr added that many calls were forwarded to other departments, which would have stopped the recording, and that only administrators had access to the stored calls.
In general, recorded calls are deleted after 180 days. By law, police are generally only able to eavesdrop on the telephone calls of the unsuspecting with a judge's permission.
mkg/kms (AFP, dpa)