Freedom on the Net: iRights.Lab writes Germany report
This year we again wrote the report on Germany for the annual publication Freedom on the Net, a global survey of internet use and freedom.
Since 2009, the Washington DC based organization Freedom House has compiled an annual report on the state of freedom on the Net. Countries are ranked in the report on a scale from 0 (not free) to 100 (unrestricted freedom). The focus is on the three central topics: access restrictions, content regulation and violations of the rights of internet users. Compared to the previous year, Germany’s score sunk to 80 points in 2019.
Despite Germany’s good standing, the report lists several developments in the past year that threatened freedom online. These include, for example, the continued expansion of police powers. Through initiatives at the regional level, the authorities in Germany have been granted additional powers to intercept communications and otherwise intervene in IT systems. Even though discussions on this issue have not yet been concluded in some federal states, there is a danger that the line between the police and domestic intelligence services will become blurred.
Further measures being planned or discussed take aim at online anonymity. These include a bill drafted by the German Bundesrat to take action against illegal online marketplaces in the Darknet. Observers see the risk that this will make it considerably more difficult to make use of anonymization tools via the Tor network, for example. (Tor uses encryption and multipath routing to hide your IP address while you surf.) Such tools are especially important for the critics of authoritarian regimes, but also for users in Germany who wish to remain anonymous. The fact that the German authorities searched the homes of Tor supporters at the end of last year––actions which were later determined to have been illegal–– shows how civil society can be targeted here as well. This also contributed to the generally poorer assessment of Germany in this year’s report.
Viewed globally, only 16 countries were able to improve their score, while the ratings of almost half of the 65 countries observed (33) worsened. The report covers 86 percent of internet users worldwide. This is the ninth consecutive year that global internet freedom has deteriorated overall.
The full report Freedom on the Net can be downloaded here.
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