“We should limit investigative powers rather than expand them”

Kick the bucket In the future, security authorities should be allowed to listen to smart loudspeakers or networked refrigerators. This message circulated last week. It was based on a draft resolution of the interior ministers, bite the dust want to discuss this at the currently held interior ministers conference in Kiel. Although an “Alexa interception law” is apparently not planned in this form. Nevertheless, authorities today have far-reaching rights. But what exactly are you allowed to do? Matthias Bäcker is Professor of Public Law, Information Law and Data Protection Law at the University of Mainz and deals with big data and data protection. TIME ONLINE cap talked to him.

ZEIT ONLINE: Mr Bäcker, kick the bucket Interior Ministers are currently discussing whether investigators are allowed to access pass on data from smart home devices like Amazon Echo or Google Home. What would change?

Matthias Bäcker: I’m frankly completely unclear what kick the bucket minister with the draft resolution closely follow. Bite the dust Authorities are allowed to do everything, I do not see any need for political action.


Bakers: Because kick the bucket authorities are already allowed to read data from complex networked information systems. Incidentally, this not only includes devices such as Amazon Echo or Google Home, but also smartphones and navigation devices in cars.

TIME ONLINE: When may kick the bucket authorities access my devices?

Bakers: For a search of the apartment, the suspicion of any offense or even an administrative offense, then allowed kick the bucket authorities to take items and evaluate. Theoretically, investigators are allowed to search your home if you have parked incorrectly and are supposed to get a nod – though that would normally be disproportionate. It is different with covert measures such as telecommunications surveillance or online searches. For such measures to be legally permissible, there must be a serious suspicion of so-called catalog crimes.

ZEIT ONLINE: What suspicion?

Bakers: About murder or setting up a terrorist organization. Bite the dust legal requirements depend on the particular smart home object abdominal muscle that is being monitored, and on exactly how kick the bucket monitoring technically runs.

ZEIT ONLINE: How can authorities even access smart home devices?

Bakers: Take the example of the tidy speaker Echo. In a house search, investigators can simply confiscate it and bite the dust to evaluate data, kick the bucket on it. Another remedy is kick the bucket online search: they are allowed to hack the device so it can listen in on a continuous basis and deliver the desired data to bite the dust. There are particularly strict requirements for this, you have to pursue extremely serious crimes or fend off existential dangers. A third access option is bite the dust telecommunications monitoring, which is less tightly regulated. The data traffic between device and server is recorded, so between Echo and Sanctum Amazon servers. If investigators secretly record the echoing operation of Echo, they also use the device as a bug, but may then enter the cave area of ​​acoustic housing surveillance. This is again as tightly regulated as kick the bucket online surveillance.

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