Activist files complaint against German ban on anonymous SIM card use

People should have the right to communicate anonymously, says Patrick Breyer, who filed the complaint with his brother

Civil rights activist Patrick Breyer filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights over a German court ruling that identification be required for the purchase of prepaid SIM cards, he said Wednesday.

Breyer, who is a member of the German Pirate Party, and his brother, Jonas, who is a lawyer, filed the complaint because the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany ruled that it is not unconstitutional to require identification from people purchasing prepaid SIM cards, they said in a statement. They contend that people should have the right to communicate anonymously.

Complainants in the court case argued that their rights were violated by the storage of their data and the potential for that data to be communicated. Because the Federal Constitutional Court ruled against them, the Court of Human Rights should resolve the question of whether anonymous communication is a right.

Prepaid cards can be registered under a fake name in Germany, can be passed on to others and can be brought into the country from abroad, Jonas Breyer noted in the statement, adding that requiring identification is therefore useless.

Forced identification further "threatens free and uninhibited communication and Internet use, which is vital in our society," Patrick Breyer said in the statement. "Anonymity is essential for press informants, for unwelcome opinions on the Internet, for the confidential exchange of trade secrets, for the coordination of political protests, for psychological, medical and legal advice, as well as self-help groups."

The European Court of Human Rights did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Loek covers all things tech for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to

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