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    Spiegel (Germany): Government Slammed over Controversial Data Law

    Spiegel reports on a controversial data-sharing bill in Germany; the legislation faces protests over its privacy implications:

    Following hefty criticism from nearly every corner, the German government is backing away from a controversial bill passed last month that would allow local government registration offices to sell citizens’ private information to marketing firms and other interested companies.

    The government now believes that the legislation will be changed via parliamentary procedures, government spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Monday.

    His comments come after a storm of protests from data protection rights groups, opposition politicians and even members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government. They are not only angered at the bill’s plans to allow government offices to sell citizens’ personal information to marketing companies, but say the measure was whisked through parliament in an undemocratic and backhanded way.

    The legislation was approved last month by the German parliament, the Bundestag, and still has to be approved by the Bundesrat, the legislative body that represents the federal states. It allows citizens’ information filed with local registration offices to be sold to outside companies, though individuals can stop that by specifically requesting that their information be kept private. People living in Germany are required to inform such government offices of their residential locations and are also required to provide their new addresses when they move. […]

    The German Association of Cities also rejects the Bundestag-passed law. “We are not in the business of selling addresses,” the group’s associate director told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

    The opposition Social Democratic Party, the Greens and data privacy groups are all part of the growing opposition to the law. “It is legal madness,” said Thilo Weichert, the head of the Independent State Center for Data Privacy in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein.

    The opposition is hoping to overturn the proposed legislation and let it fail in the Bundesrat when it comes up for a vote in October. If they are unsuccessful, the new rules will take effect in 2014.

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