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Germany drops Verizon in wake of Snowden revelations

Who watches the watchmen?

The German government has decided to cancel a contract with Verizon Wireless prompted, at least in part, by the revelations of US spying unveiled by NSA contractor Edward Snowden last year. The apparent assumption on the part of the German government is that, as a US company, Verizon will be obliged to allow US security agencies access to German government communications over the Verizon network.

According to a press release from the German interior ministry, Verizon provides one of the two networks the German government uses to communicate. As part of a general overhaul of the security of its communications infrastructure, the German government has come to the reasonable conclusion that communicating over a network that another country can tap into at will falls somewhat short of security best practice.

Detlef Eppig, head of Verizon Germany, told Reuters: “Verizon Germany is a German company and we comply with German law,” which isn’t quite the same as saying “we will definitely never hand over information taken from our German network to the NSA”. Verizon further skirted the issue by adding: “The U.S. government cannot compel us to produce our customers’ data stored in data centres outside the U.S., and if it attempts to do so, we would challenge that attempt in a court.”

The most enduring legacy of Snowden’s mega-leak has not been the confirmation that spying happens – only the most disingenuous government would pretend to be shocked by that – but the apparently indiscriminate and cavalier approach taken by the NSA, CIA and other spooky acronyms. The wholesale hovering up of personal communications data, both domestic and international, in the name of ‘security’, has caused many people and institutions that previously trusted the US security agencies to question whose side they’re on.


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