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?

  • 11
    Why wouldn't it be?
    – phoog
    May 30, 2018 at 21:00
  • 1
    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
    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".

  • 1
    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
    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
    Oct 5, 2021 at 5:34
  • 2
    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
    Oct 5, 2021 at 10:11
  • 1
    Postcards do get full protection from postal secrecy in Germany, which is odd but in general your work here is correct.
    – Trish
    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
    Oct 5, 2021 at 12:02

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.