The Federal Constitutional Court has declared regulations in Hesse and Hamburg unconstitutional that allow the police to automatically process personal data with the help of special software to prevent crime. In their judgment on Thursday, the judges in Karlsruhe complained that the state laws did not regulate precisely enough the cases in which the data may be processed. 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. It links information already stored in different 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 can work in concrete terms: A suspected ATM blaster was arrested after the software christened "Hessendata" in Wiesbaden showed that a certain car was in the vicinity of 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. According to the court, the way this is currently regulated in the two countries violates 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.