Did Deutsche Telekom Track Journalists’ Movements?

Over the last couple of weeks, a major privacy scandal has been unfolding in Germany: Deutsche Telekom – the company that also monopolized use of the a certain shade of magenta – spied on their management. Not only their on their management, though, Telekom also spied on journalists.

(Please note: Quite a few of the linked sources are in German only as most material on Deutsche Telekom is only available that way.)

Stasi 2.0 by flickr user skepWhile Germany’s Minister of the Interior & big-time surveillance fan Wolfgang Schäuble says he’s shocked and invites leading Telekom representatives for a nice cuppa coffee, the Telekom managements (both former end current) keep bouncing back and forth responsibility for ordering the super-illegal surveillance. Schäuble, sadly, doesn’t seem to be drawing the correct conclusions: That privacy is worth protecting, and not as he proposes in his interpretation of the war on terror a matter to be dismissed lightly. But back to Deutsche Telekom.

The Telekom had, or so it seems, suspected someone leaked confidential information. How to hunt a mole? Spy on our board of directors, our shareholders, and those pesky journalists. And how to do that best? First you hire a Berlin-based consultancy run by former Stasi spies. And since they’re the predominant German telco, they could just tap into journalists’ phone calls, trace their movements and map their social networks. This stinks.

Fun twist: As of Jan 1, 2008 all telcos (including Deutsche Telekom) are forced by law to save all connection data for six months as part of the war on terror. Well, after all we’ve learned about the Telekom’s data handling, we can surely agree on their trustworthiness, right? Oh boy. Just to be clear: This kind of spying is absolutely illegal in Germany.

I’m curious how this is going to play out. While I’m watching the drama unfold, I’m quite happy that I don’t use any Deutsche Telekom services anymore, and I’ll make sure to encrypt my surfing and my email more thoroughly to avoid being eavesdropped on by not-so-trustworthy organizations.

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