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15 January 2014

Civil Security Research and the Internet

“The worldwide web offers all the prerequisites needed to undermine all citizens’ fundamental rights in this country being enshrined in the first ten articles of our constitution. This is particularly the case for the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press in article five which are a crucial and fundamental basis of our functioning democracy. In the end, it does also apply to the core statement of our constitution which states in article one: Human dignity is inviolable.

In order to assess these dangers correctly for our common freedom in future and to enhance trust in this medium, we have to dedicate more sensitivity, more attention as well as research to the Internet.” (Joachim Gauck, Federal President Germany, February 2012)

Also for the purpose of not leaving our Federal President alone with his fears about fundamental rights’ functional capability, the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) has gained a new thematic emphasis in autumn 2013. It is part of the area “Global Constitutionalism and the Internet”.  Within the context of a project supported by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung), four PhD candidates and two research students are dealing with questions of civil security law in Europe specific to the Internet.

These four academic fellows cover the following topics:

  1. Legal Basis for a European Cyber Security law in the multilevel system of the EU
  2. Security of infrastructure, networks and data in a digital Europe
  3. Data exchange and information systems in the framework of police and judicial cooperation in the EU
  4. Combating cybercrime within the European Union

At the same time, due to this research project the HIIG is one of four network partners in the Network for Civil Security Law in Europe (KORSE). The network aims at fostering and coordinating German jurisprudential security research as to make it visible and fruitful at the European level finally. While the academic fellows at the Centre for Security and Society at the University of Freiburg devote attention to general challenges of security research, its partners are equipped with specific areas of research. For instance, the German Police Academy in Münster works in the field of “network-based security of interlinked police forces”, whereas the Claussen-Simon-Chair for International Law at Bucerius Law School in Hamburg considers the matter of “maritime security”.

In addition to these classical analogue aspects of civil security, the digital security takes a special role of increasing importance in practice as well as in research. Admittedly, even if you as a reader of our blog would not look at the Internet with the same fear as our power holders and dignitaries, the specificity of the Internet justifies a seperate consideration of security law. Above all, that implies basically two things: safety related aspects, all of which are found in daily life, exist in the digital world too. They might even play a greater role there but also additional risks have been emerged.

Relevance and timeliness of the four HIIG/KORSE related research topics will be outlined by brief reflections in the following section:

Data more rapidly and expansively revealed by Internet users, are not necessarily less worthy of protection. The international exchange of digital information between states in general and specifically between investigation authorities is able to happen without significant delay. Beside of that, digital infrastructures have become essential for the functioning of modern states. Consequently, more than ever their general and effective protection must be ensured which is especially important in order to guarantee critical infrastructures such as finance, energy supply and healthcare. Ultimately, these structure and digital information are especially worthwhile targets for criminals. Apart from commercial use by enterprises and surveillance of personal data and digital communication by the state, the criminal-law aspect in particular plays an essential role both for the Internet users and the investigation authorities.

The approach, responding to potential – digital and analogue –  security threat situations by using digital technologies increasingly, seems rarely thought through to the end yet.

As a result, security law objectives contradict each other sometimes. Even if one give credit to, for instance, government bodies for processing data obtained by mechanisms like data retention carefully and permissible under constitutional law, huge and central information memories come up. They, for their part again are targets for less well-meaning user-groups of digital technologies. In this way, indeed, meant for prevention and detection of criminal activities in both the digital and analogue world, the tool itself is developing (at least passively) an own, separate hazard potential.

Precisely because it is about groundless retention of call detail records, not even particularly decent citizens (whomever one might define as such) can feel secure like the former Interior Minister and today’s Finance Minister Dr. Wolfgang Schäuble. He was probably rather thinking about the danger of spying out citizens by the state than considering further possibilities for use and abuse  of his personal data:

“Moreover, I am decent. So, the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) has no reason to send me any Trojans.” (Dr. Wolfgang Schäuble, Federal Interior Minister, February 2007)

In fact,  the above mentioned statements are only a tiny extract. However, they show that “the Internet” is treated, on one hand, as a great danger for security and freedom and is rated as an quite welcomed instrument in the field of security on the other hand.

Admittedly, barely ever helpful, such a black and white thinking definitely not suits as a response to chances, risks and challenges of a digital world.

That is also why the four KORSE-fellows at HIIG aim at considering the complex of themes more differentiated and in a global sense. It is made possible by an intense cooperation among each other as well as in a transdisciplinary exchange with researchers of other disciplines at HIIG. It might be that in the end even our Federal President will have a more restful sleep.



This post is part of a weekly series of articles by doctoral canditates of the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society. It does not necessarily represent the view of the Institute itself. For more information about the topics of these articles and asssociated research projects, please contact

This post represents the view of the author and does not necessarily represent the view of the institute itself. For more information about the topics of these articles and associated research projects, please contact

Adrian Haase, Dr.

Ehem. Doktorand: Globaler Konstitutionalismus und das Internet

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