In German law, is it legal to send an encrypted message via a post card? E.g. encrypt a message text on a computer with RSA and print the Base64 encoding on the post card and send it. Or is it a requirement that the message content is readable (hand written) plain text?

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    Why wouldn't it be?
    – phoog
    Commented May 30, 2018 at 21:00
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    Also: interesting factoid: technically, the German postal services may not read the correspondence, even if it is blatantly obvious (on the back of a postcard). They need to have special reasoning to be allowed to read them, such as trying to discern who the addressee is, and must ignore any non-address part. And frankly: most postal service workers frankly don't care what by whom is delivered to who. even if the contents are quite visible, they don't care unless it is clearly a bomb or labeled insufficiently.
    – Trish
    Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 10:53

1 Answer 1


Article 10 (1) Basic Law / Art. 10 Abs. 1 Grundgesetz:

The privacy of correspondence, posts, and telecommunications shall be inviolable.

You can send whatever you want via postcard (as long as it doesn't constitute a different criminal offense).

Technically, whoever were to decrypt your message, besides the addressee, would probably commit Data Espionage according to §202a (2) Criminal Code / § 202a Abs. 2 Strafgesetzbuch. The second paragraph states that this only applies if the data is transmitted electronically, magnetically, or otherwise in a manner which is not immediately perceptible. I would argue that a non-sealed postcard with an encrypted message would be "not immediately perceptible".

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    You use the wrong pointers for the German laws: The Grundgesetz only has Articles, all other laws have paragraphs (§), with subsections that are Absatz (sections). There is no Criminal Code, it is Strafgesetzbuch aka "Book of criminal law"
    – Trish
    Commented Oct 4, 2021 at 20:12
  • As for the citations, I'm not used to the anglo-american system, apologies. I did, If you have another look, cite "Article 10, § 1", "§" as in "Absatz", not in "Paragraph". However, the official translation of the "StGB" calls it "German Criminal Code", just like the GG is called "Basic Law" (sounds stupid, but, ah, well...), see gesetze-im-internet.de/englisch_stgb/englisch_stgb.html
    – Robb
    Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 5:34
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    It's better to try to adhere to the original national style, since translation of referencing styles is at times wonky. $ is never Absatz in german laws, always what in English is a section and in german a Paragraph.
    – Trish
    Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 10:11
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    Postcards do get full protection from postal secrecy in Germany, which is odd but in general your work here is correct.
    – Trish
    Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 10:54
  • Just to correct your usage of citations, the German style would dictate either writing "Artikel 10, Absatz 1 GG" or "Art. 10 Abs. 1 GG" or "Art. 10 I GG", definitely not "Article 10 (1) GG", same for "§ 202a II StGB" (mind the space) or "§ 202a Abs. 2 StGB".
    – Robb
    Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 12:02

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