Federal Council approves ID cards for smartphones and nationwide license plate scanning

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The Federal Council dealt with the record number of 135 agenda items in its plenary session on Friday. In order to cope with the mammoth program, the regional chamber mostly switched to the nod mode. She waved through dozens of bills that the Bundestag had passed in the last two weeks of session before the end of the legislative period. These included a number of projects in the fields of network and security policy.

The law will soon come into force, with which German citizens can in principle save the electronic identity (eID) linked to the identity card directly in a smartphone or tablet from September onwards. This should make it easier to use the online ID card, which has hardly been used until now. So far, however, only Samsung devices of the Galaxy S20 series meet the prescribed safety requirements due to a research project.

Bundesdruckerei points out that the necessary security elements such as an integrated “secure element” or the eSIM card do not in principle “restrict smartphones”. In principle, the technology is broadly applicable, but device manufacturers and mobile phone providers must enable it to be used. It will take some time until a wide range of smartphones is on the market on which the online ID can in principle be uploaded. In addition, there are not yet many applications for which an eID can be used in this country.

At the same time, the federal states are allowed to set up central biometric photo and signature registers for the implementation of an automated retrieval process. On the other hand, many concerns about data protection had arisen.

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The Federal Council has endorsed the reform of the Code of Criminal Procedure (StPO), with which the police will in future be able to search apartments, business premises and property at night in order to catch computers and IT systems while they are running and thus be able to copy and confiscate unencrypted data. Until now, such disturbance of the night’s sleep was only allowed in the case of imminent danger, for “red-handed persecution” and for apprehending an escaped prisoner. Rhineland-Palatinate had previously thrown in the regional chamber for such a clause with reference to the cyberbunker procedure.

The StPO amendment also provides a uniform legal basis with which the police and other security authorities such as customs can use automated license plate reading systems in public traffic areas for search purposes. The data can then be compared with license plates of vehicles that are registered on the accused or on liaison persons or are used by them. The condition is that there are “sufficient factual indications” for a criminal offense of considerable importance.

Under Paragraph 95a of the Code of Criminal Procedure, investigators will in future be able to secretly access electronic evidence such as emails or chats stored with the provider, the content of a user account in a social network and data in the cloud, in some cases secretly. The reform also expands the already broad catalog of criminal offenses for clandestine online searches with state Trojans and for large-scale eavesdropping. Corresponding interventions in IT systems will in future also be permitted in the case of offenses such as commercial and gang-like computer fraud, as well as offenses from the Foreign Trade Act and the New Psychoactive Substances Act.

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The federal states have also approved several changes to the Criminal Code (StGB). On the one hand, it is about enabling a more effective fight against stalking. This should also better capture cyberstalking and revenge porn. The other relevant resolutions provide for increased penalties and an expanded set of offenses for the operation of criminal trading platforms not only on the Darknet. In the case of commercial activities, the investigators are again allowed to use state Trojans for clandestine online searches.

The dissemination of so-called lists of enemies, instructions on the sexual abuse of children as well as propaganda materials and labels of unconstitutional and terrorist organizations via the Internet is also criminalized. Anyone who insults others “incitively” also faces sentences of up to two years’ imprisonment. On the other hand, the state chamber took a sideways position when it came to adapting the Federal Police Act and the associated license to use the federal Trojan.

The Federal Council raised no objection – despite massive objections from Green Ministers – to the reform of the Climate Protection Act. According to this, Germany should become climate neutral by 2045. The original plan was for greenhouse gas emissions to fall to net zero by 2050. The new interim target for 2030 is to reduce emissions of CO2 and other climate-damaging gases by 65 percent compared to 1990. The Federal Constitutional Court had made steam. The Greens complained that a socially just reform of the CO2 price would be missed and that the expansion of renewables would remain piecemeal.

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The Federal Council has also approved two larger consumer protection packages and a draft law for “fair consumer contracts” with a new online cancellation button. Associated with this is, among other things, a right to updates for smartphones and devices with digital elements. Consumers also receive extensive warranty claims for digital content and services.

In the future, online marketplaces and comparison services such as Amazon, eBay, Airbnb and Idealo will have to provide information about the essential criteria for ranking the goods, services or digital content that they present as the result of their search query. Influencers and bloggers are obliged to label advertising for a post on Instagram, Facebook & Co. if they receive a fee or a similar consideration. In addition, the federal states raised no objection to the draft law “to simplify and modernize patent law”, which is intended to somewhat restrict the right to injunctive relief.


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