The German Bundestag is about to debate far-reaching legislation that will permanently enshrine coronavirus-related restrictions into law. In this episode, I examine this law’s privacy and civil liberty implications.

Tomorrow, the German Bundestag is set to debate a law that will pass all the temporary COVID-19 restrictions into permanent law – and more, worse stuff. This is hugely important to privacy and civil liberties in the country and therefore, in this episode of The Private Citizen, we will talk about it. The recording of this episode was streamed live on Twitch: Part 1 & Part 2.

The German COVID-19 Law

Germany is on its way to pass the temporary coronavirus-related restrictions into law. The draft legislation for the Drittes Gesetz zum Schutz der Bevölkerung bei einer epidemischen Lage von nationaler Tragweite has been proposed by the ruling coalition of the Conservatives (CDU/CSU) and the Labour party (SPD). It is set to change the Infektionsschutzgesetz (IfSG) in fundamental ways, enabling mask wearing and physical distancing mandates and hard lockdowns that make virtually all leisure activities and gatherings illegal. It will also introduce what can only be called immunity passport legislation (which I had feared would come soon and talked about in episode 38 of the show).

The new law will severly restrict major constitutionally-guaranteed civil liberties such as the rights to travel freely, the right to gather for political demonstrations and religious gatherings, the right to not be unduly restrained by law, the sovereignty of privacy in your own home and the right to bodily inviolacy. It’s also worded in such a way that it applies not only to sick people, but also those suspected to be sick or suspected to might have been infected – ie. basically everyone. And it circumvents oversight by the second house of parliament, the Bundesrat, in many places, to give the government more direct control over the included measures. Much of this might be unconstitutional. But I have a feeling that this law will be passed anyway.

The US Presidential Election Result

Joe Biden has won the 2020 Presidential Election. What does that mean for the US and for privacy around the world? I will hopefully explore this further in another episode with Mike.

Producer Feedback

Martin, as he puts it “not the patron but the non-paying-douchebag who also writes some spam from time to time”, gives some more feedback on the election episode:

You said that you used to not understand why there’s the electoral college but you do so now. You explained why you think the system is needed. I have three remarks:

You said that you don’t understand why suddenly (in 2016) people discussed the popular vote. There are two reasons: 2016 (after 2000) is one of only five cases where the popular vote didn’t decide over the president. The other such cases where in the 19th centrury. I sadly don’t find that quote, but I remember hearing Trump say that he finds the popular vote the better tool – before the election of course.

You also said that you think the Democrats would also accept an electoral win even if it wasn’t backed by the popular vote. I would like to add: There is no data on that. The Democrats never won a president election without winning the popular vote. The Republicans did so four times. George W. Bush and Donald J. Trump being the most recent cases.

Sorry that I have to nag about that. But you said you now understand why the electoral college is needed, and I still don’t understand it. You said that it is needed in order to avoid crowded states to decide for the densely populated states. So far, I see two features of the electoral college: The number of electors mismatches the number of actual votes of the state (and in some cases also the number of possible votes in the state). That means that not every ballot paper has the same weight. The winner-takes-it-all rule means that ballot papers for a non-winner of a state have no weight at all. Which of these two features is the one that you find relevant? Or are there other features and effects that are relevant?

Captain Egghead responds to my comments on his privacy-oriented email experiment from episode 46:

You are completely right about having to prevent your computer from leaking stuff when using Tor. In fact I had used Docker for that experiment (x11docker plus tor browser image). Not the safest as a sandbox, but pretty easy for me since Docker is something I use regularly for my dayjob.

The Purism Librem-5 is actually actually not Android-based. Rather, it is a pure Linux-phone using regular (screensize-adjusted) GNOME apps – makes it even more interesting to me as an long-time Linux user.

Barry Williams also responded to my comments on his email in episode 46:

I think I agree entirely with your response to my email. Nuclear should be a part of the energy solution and it pisses me off “environmentalists” do not understand how the latest generation plants have very little environmental impact. As soon as I sent my email I wanted to send a follow up with caveat upon caveat e.g. yes I understand (well not really but I know there will be one) the economic impact, and I get that if others are continue as normal without the being impacted it is not good for the environment or the respective economies. I would like to think that we could transfer the economy of the poluting system into a “greener” one, e.g. retrain coal fired power plant workers to nuclear plant workers but I understand it is not that easy.

If you, too, have thoughts on the topics discussed in this or previous episodes, please feel free to contact me.

Toss a Coin to Your Podcaster

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Thanks and Credits

I like to credit everyone who’s helped with any aspect of this production and thus became a part of the show.

Aside from the people who have provided feedback and research and are credited as such above, I’m thankful to Raúl Cabezalí, who composed and recorded the show’s theme, a song called Acoustic Routes. I am also thankful to Bytemark, who are providing the hosting for this episode’s audio file.

But above all, I’d like to thank the following people, who have supported this episode through Patreon or PayPal and thus keep this show on the air: Niall Donegan, Michael Mullan-Jensen, Jonathan M. Hethey, Dave, Butterbeans, Georges Walther, Steve Hoos, Mark Holland, Shelby Cruver, Vlad, Jackie Plage, 1i11g, Kai Siers, Philip Klostermann, Jaroslav Lichtblau, Fadi Mansour, ikn, Matt Jelliman, Joe Poser, Dirk Dede, David Potter, Mika, Dave Umrysh, Martin, S.J., RikyM, drivezero, Jonathan Edwards, Barry Williams, MrAmish, Vytautas Sadauskas, Neil, Captain Egghead and Galteran.