German court curtails data storage law

Germany's top court has curtailed a law requiring telecom firms to store phone and Internet data for six months, dealing a new blow to the government's efforts to beef up anti-terrorism measures, a Reuters report said.

Opposition politicians, civil liberties campaigners and many citizens had opposed the law, a divisive issue in a country haunted by memories of domestic spying by Hitler's Gestapo and communist East Germany's Stasi secret police.

In response to bomb attacks in Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005, the law obliges telecom firms to keep a record of who contacted whom, and the time and location of calls.

The Federal Constitutional Court ruled data may be stored, but details may only be transferred to investigators in the event of inquiries into serious crime.

The decision was the latest in a series of rulings against tighter security measures introduced by Chancellor Angela Merkel and previous governments. It drew praise from civil liberty campaigners who want greater data protection and privacy rights. In 2004, judges ordered the government to tighten rules for bugging homes.