Jörg Ziercke, president of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), said in an interview with the German magazine Stern that the planned remote forensic software can't be used broadly because it must be tailored to run on each targeted computer. "We're talking about 10 such measures a year," he said.
The German government has released no technical details of how the sypware will operate. A spokesman for the Interior Ministry declined to comment, citing security regulations.
The use of spyware by crime fighters isn't new. For instance, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation uses a tool, called CIPAV (computer and Internet Protocol address verifier), which can record IP addresses and send this data back to government computers.
Nor is Germany the only European country debating spyware legislation. Neighboring Switzerland and Austria are reportedly considering laws that will give police greater powers to monitor computers online. Neither of the countries has released any information on their spyware plans.
No firm date is set when German parliamentarians are expected to vote on the proposed security law. But with Islamic radicals targeting German troops and others working in Afghanistan in recent weeks, Schäuble has spoken of a heightened threat level that makes the spyware issue of increasing urgency.