The new German gambling laws, The State Treaty on Gambling (GST-E), contains a controversial provision that appeared in almost every German internet related bill over the past year.
The gambling law contains a provision for a ‘Network Lock’, described as a powerful ‘sniffer’ – software capable of blocking or censoring websites, instant messages and emails.
The ‘sniffer’ automatically censors, blocks and records all online activity at the network level, based on content as well as monitors all online communications within Germany.
All German online traffic would be monitored to detect any activity deemed unsuitable. It would no longer be possible to write an instant message, email if the ‘sniffer’ software disagrees with the content, or to even attempt to connect to an unlicensed online sportsbooks in Germany. The ‘Network Lock’ software would automatically block the connection, email, message or website that the software considers inappropriate.
In the past, the German courts almost immediately struck down the ‘Network Lock’ provision as unconstitutional, due to censorship, privacy issues and the great potential for abuse. The GST-E contains a differently worded and even more intrusive language authorizing countrywide monitoring of all communications.
German anti-censorship groups consider this provision ‘nothing less than a permanent, comprehensive monitoring of all online traffic.’
The new gambling law came about because of the September 8, 2010 decision by the European Court of Justice (ECJ/C-409/06) regarding the German gambling monopoly.
The decision confirmed the right of any EU member state to have a gambling monopoly as long as (a) the monopoly is primarily used to restrict gambling or guide gamblers in order to prevent gambling addiction; (b) monopoly must not be used to restrict access to the gambling market by competitors purely for financial reasons in order to ‘corner the market’.
Online gambling news in Germany reported on the EU court ruling, which declared the primary purpose of the German gambling monopoly to be for financial gains and not for limiting, helping or preventing problem gambling. Ten months later the new gambling framework was born.
The State Treaty on Gambling includes very vague language authorizing – “methods to detect attempted network communications with illegal gambling operations.”
Such language could only mean the use of a ‘Network Lock’, ‘Deep Packet Inspection’ (DPI) and the so-called transparent proxy servers. All three add up to a complete loss of privacy for law-abiding German residents.
The law allows internet service providers (ISP), telecom companies and the government to listen in on all communications between private citizens within Germany. Such an intrusion into the private lives of millions of residents within a western democracy is unacceptable in the 21st century.