German Parliament approves draft law to boost video surveillance

German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a government policy statement on the European Council in the German Parliament in Berlin, Germany on March 9, 2017.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a government policy statement on the European Council in the German Parliament in Berlin, Germany on March 9, 2017.PHOTO: EPA

BERLIN (REUTERS) - Germany's Lower House of Parliament agreed late on Thursday (March 9) to a draft law to boost video surveillance in public places such as shopping centres and stadiums, amid widespread concerns in Germany after several violent attacks by militants.

Surveillance is a sensitive topic in Germany, where memories of extensive snooping by the Stasi secret police in Communist East Germany and by the Gestapo during the Nazi era remain.

But concerns about security have mounted after mass sexual assaults in Cologne on New Year's Eve 2015, a spate of violent attacks on civilians last summer and an Islamist-inspired attack in which a failed asylum seeker rammed a truck into a Berlin Christmas market, killing 12 people.

According to the draft law, regional data protection authorities will still have to review decisions made by venues, such as by shopping centres to use video surveillance, but the authorities will in future have to consider security concerns more strongly.

Protecting lives, health and freedom will be of particular importance in video surveillance such as in shopping arcades, sports facilities, carparks as well as in buses and trains.

The law is based on a packet of measures that German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere and Justice Minister Heiko Maas announced last year to boost domestic security.

The Bundestag also agreed to allow the federal police to use automatic systems to read car number plates and bodycams, as well as to record telephone calls in control centres.