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The police and guest lists

The confiscation of Corona guest lists in restaurants by the police is a breach of trust. Even if the procedure should be covered by the code of Criminal Procedure: it was communicated quite differently in the run-up to the orders. The practice is moving in the vicinity of data retention and it further weakens the shaky justification for the already questionable data queries in local areas.

While local guests are often assured that the registration of their data, for example when visiting a restaurant, would only serve health protection, it has emerged that the police in several federal states have confiscated the relevant lists for the prosecution of alleged offenders. According to the media, Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann (CSU) justifies the practice, which is to be described as an alleged deception of the citizens, by saying that “the citizen” would “expect” this contradictory practice for his protection:

“The Citizen rightly expects that the police, within the framework of the legal system, will do everything to protect him and not put his hands in his lap under the cloak of a misinterpreted data protection.”

This view is borderline, it may be appropriate for serious crimes such as murder and manslaughter. According to the Bavarian Ministry of the interior, access was at least in Bavaria “only in individual cases and for serious offences”. From other federal states if the information is not clear, the hessian Ministry of Justice said that “no information is available as to whether and to what extent lists have been used so far”. According to the hessian Restaurant Association Dehoga, however, there have been individual cases in southern Hesse. Media also report cases in Rhineland-Palatinate, for example.

The Problem is that there is a real danger that, if restrictions on serious violent crimes are allowed, it may not remain so. The Bavarian State Commissioner for data protection, Thomas Petri, has according to media investigations initiated and he calls for a nationwide legal regulation to restrict the access of law enforcement authorities to the data:

“This goes in the direction of data retention.”

Among other things, the Bavarian infection protection measures ordinance would state that guests would have to leave their contact details in taverns, for example, according to the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”. It is also stipulated that the collected data may only be evaluated at the request of the competent health authorities and for the tracking of possible routes of infection.

Ministries: confiscation of lists

According to SWR, however, the police may seize and evaluate the contact details for criminal investigations. This is permitted by the code of Criminal Procedure, as both the Rhineland-Palatinate Ministry of justice and the Federal Ministry of Justice have confirmed. According to the Rhineland-Palatinate Ministry of justice, the prerequisite is that there is an investigation. In addition, the law does not differentiate according to the severity of the crime: it can be an investigation for murder, but also for theft, fraud or trespassing.

According to the SWR, the Federal Ministry of Justice reported that according to the rules of the code of Criminal Procedure, Law enforcement authorities are allowed to access the contact details of guests kept by innkeepers if the appropriate conditions exist, such as “seizure” or “search”. The code of criminal procedure does not provide for any restrictions on the use of the data to be collected by the innkeepers.

“Processing of the data for other purposes is not permitted”

According to SWR, the corona regulation of Rhineland-Palatinate also states that the guest’s data is collected in order to trace contacts in the event of a Corona infection: “processing of the data for other purposes is not permitted.“According to the Rhineland-Palatinate Ministry of health, however, this refers to those who are obliged to collect the data, such as the restaurateurs. The regulation does not exclude the police from evaluating the data. According to the media, Thomas Geppert, managing director of the Dehoga Hotel and Restaurant Association, is “very surprised” by the practice of the police:

“This was not intended and communicated differently by politics.”

Dehoga chief executive Julius Wagner told the broadcaster " FFH “that it could not be"that one suddenly accesses a ‘data treasure’, which would never have existed without Corona”. A spokesman for the Rhineland-Palatinate Data Protection Officer Dieter Kugelmann said loudly “Zeit":

“The person sitting in the beer garden may not be questioned by the police later on on the basis of the entry on a Corona guest list when it comes to investigating a public order offence, minor damage to property or false parking in the vicinity.”

If the police really need the guest lists for their work when investigating serious crimes such as murder or manslaughter, then a judicial decision offers legal certainty, according to the data protection experts.

Unlike in Rhineland-Palatinate, for example in Baden-Württemberg, according to the SWR, data from restaurant visitors may not be used by the police. According to the Gaststätten-Corona-Verordnung in Baden-Württemberg, data from guests are only collected in order to be able to provide information to the health authorities and the municipalities according to the infection Protection Act, according to the report. From a legal point of view, this results in a “clear purpose limitation”, said a spokesman for the Interior Ministry.

Data protector ball man advises farmers and non-farmers, according to media reports, the guest lists Readily surrendered. Affected persons should have a judicial decision to confiscate the guest list shown. Green Party leader Katharina Schulze said according to the” Süddeutsche Zeitung “that she could absolutely understand the Irritation of the people about” this breach of trust”. According to Martin Hagen of the FDP, according to the same report, “insisting that the police use the data only for particularly serious crimes” is not enough. Guest data must be “taboo”, that must be” legally clarified”.

Practice of police undermines trust

As I said, the police’s actions could be interpreted as deception of citizens, even if they are formally covered by the code of Criminal Procedure – precisely because they were communicated differently in advance. This alleged deception further undermines the questionable Basis of the already rightly controversial collection of customer data. In addition, it has the potential to undermine confidence in the predictability of government action in general among many citizens. Last but not least, the distrust that has now arisen also significantly weakens the officially formulated goal of the guest lists – the “pandemic control”.

In addition, there is a risk that data collected in such controversial ways could then also be used outside the once-restricted field. The phrase “misinterpreted data protection” is already familiar from the debate about the justification of data retention. In this area, for example, the emotional topic of child pornography is often brought into the field in order to introduce this storage. Should the “corona Argument” be added to this emotional Argument as a door opener?