18 years ago I attended a demonstration with my parents. It was November the 4th, 1989. The GDR was in its last days. This demonstration left a big impression on me. I still remember one of the slogans people were shouting back then: “Stasi in die Produktion - Ohne Arbeit keinen Lohn”1). I didn't know much about the Stasi back then. I was eleven years old.
Stasi is short for “Staatsicherheit” (state security). It was the domestic intelligence service of East Germany and responsible for a gigantic surveillance and oppression system.
Why am I writing about this? Today I was on another demonstration which incidentally took place at the same spot as the one eighteen years ago. Many people where wearing T-shirts depicting a “Stasi 2.0” lettering and our current interior minister Wolfgang Schäuble. The demonstration's motto was “freedom instead of fear - stop the surveillance madness”. About 15,000 people attended this demonstration and over 50 different groups from all parts of society had called for participation.
So what is happening in Germany? During the last years a whole bunch of bills passed legislation in the name of fighting terrorism and enhancing inner security. Similar to other countries like the USA or Great Britain those laws had little impact on real security but instead cut civil rights and impact everybody's life for worse.
Passed laws include things like the introduction RFID chips and biometric data in passports or the introduction of the “hacker paragraph” 2). A recent suggestions made by Schäuble is the use of a trojan horse3) to spy directly on people's computers.
The demonstration today was especially a protest against a new law which shall be installed next year. It will bind all German internet and telecommunication providers to store all connection data for six months and make it available to the state executive on request. This is a large attack on everybody's personal information freedom.
Additionally to all those laws (I only listed a few of them), the police recently arrested some people for very dubious reasons. Eg. a Sociologist was arrested as terror suspect because he had access to libraries and used certain words in his scientific paper. Both facts made him suspect for connections to a “terrorist alliance”.
Many people in Germany are in fear of the country developing into a Orwellian surveillance state. While the demonstration 18 years ago marked the end of an oppressive regime, the one today might be remembered as start of a new one.
Many people reading my lines above might say I'm a pessimist. Some may even be mad at me for comparing the GDR's Stasi methods with Germany's methods today – they might be right. But here is something to think about:
I personally know multiple people4) considering leaving the country. Because they are sick of the security craze, surveillance laws and civil right cuts. When people start to leave their birth country because they don't feel welcome anymore, there is something rotten for sure…
Demo pictures after the jump (faces pixelized for privacy reasons ).