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German Constitutional Court Strikes Down Predictive Algorithms for Policing

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Surveillance cameras at a German police station.

In its ruling, the German Federal Constitutional Court struck down acts providing a statutory basis for police to process stored personal data through automated data analysis, in the case of Hesse, or automated data interpretation, in Hamburg.

Credit: BalkansCat/Shutterstock

The German Federal Constitutional Court declared the use of Palantir surveillance software by police in Hesse and Hamburg unconstitutional in a landmark ruling.

The ruling concludes a case brought by the German Society for Civil Rights (GFF) last year, hearings for which began in December. The plaintiffs argued that the software could be used for predictive policing, raising the risk of mistakes and discrimination by law enforcement. 

The German state of Hesse has been using the software since 2017, though it is not yet in place in Hamburg. The technology is provided by Palantir, a US data analytics firm which received early backing from intelligence agencies, including the CIA, FBI and NSA. 

The case was brought on behalf of 11 plaintiffs and rested on the argument that the software programme – named 'Hessendata' – facilitates predictive policing by using data to create profiles of suspects before any crime has been committed.

From Euractiv
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