The Federal Constitutional Court has declared regulations in Hesse and Hamburg unconstitutional that allow the police to automatically process personal data for preventive crime prevention using special software. In their judgment on Thursday, the judges in Karlsruhe criticized the fact that the state laws do not regulate the cases in which the data may be further processed precisely enough. Both countries now have to improve. (Ref. 1 BvR 1547/19 and 1 BvR 2634/20)
The software can find connections that individual investigators would not see. They networked information already stored in various police files. In this way, relationships between people, groups or even places and things should be able to be established. At the hearing in December, a Hessian state official explained how this works in concrete terms: A suspected ATM blaster was arrested after the software christened "Hessendata" in Wiesbaden showed that a certain car was near several crime scenes.
The judgment from Karlsruhe is not directed against any further processing of data, but only against the use to prevent criminal offenses. The way it is currently regulated in both countries, the court believes that it is likely to violate general personality rights. Two constitutional complaints coordinated by the Society for Freedom Rights were partially successful.
The Hessian regulation may continue to apply with restrictions until the end of September at the latest, the Hamburg regulation was declared null and void. The software from the US company Palantir is already in use in Hesse, while in Hamburg only the legal basis for it has been created. North Rhine-Westphalia is also already using the software – a constitutional complaint against the law there is still pending in Karlsruhe. Other countries also want to enable their police to automatically evaluate data.
In a first reaction, the Hamburg left welcomed the judgement: “During the legislative process, the incompatibility of the regulation on automated data processing with the right to informational self-determination was pointed out. The red-green Senate has nevertheless enforced this regulation, which is hostile to fundamental rights, and now bears political responsibility for the gossip from the Constitutional Court," said Deniz Celik, spokesman for domestic affairs for the parliamentary group in the citizenship.