Monday, October 21, 2013

German telecommunications increasing efforts to profit from NSA damage

German telecommunications providers are increasing efforts to profit from the reputation damage to their US counterparts in the wake of the NSA scandal by planning an email service secure from foreign snooping.
In August, a grouping of larger companies – including state-owned Deutsche Telekom, GMX and – had started a marketing campaign called Email Made in Germany, which contrasted the "insecure" reputation of US companies with that of providers based in Germany – famed for its strict data security laws. Now Deutsche Telekom has put forward new plans for a national internet network, where emails between German users would no longer have to go via foreign servers.
Thomas Kremer, Telekom's management board member responsible for data privacy, legal affairs and compliance, tells the Guardian that his company has "recommended internet traffic be kept within Schengen countries where possible. A basis for this solution would be a 'national routing' just like in the US. Intelligence services of countries outside this area would then find it much more difficult to access this data traffic."
The strategy among Germany's IT giants is mirrored by a new dynamism within the German IT startup scene. Hamburg-based startup Protonet, who build small local servers for company-wide social networks, experienced an 850% increase in concrete enquiries from June to July this year. Their new clients include lawyers, advertising agencies and tax advisers who are worried about the safety of their data. "There is a sense that we are stepping out of the shadow of the US startup scene," said Protonet co-founder Christopher Blum.
Another small company, Secomba from Augsburg, experienced a run on their BoxCryptor encryption service in July and August. But talk of a "German internet" is premature, said co-founder Robert Freudenreich. The "Email Made in Germany" initiative, he argued, "was above all a marketing excercise". Telekom merely started using an encryption service that had been widely available for years – and which had been adopted as standard procedure by many US providers years ago.
For now, the German internet is merely a commercial fantasy, according to Kilian Froitzhuber of the critical blog Netzpolitik. "What about the millions of young people who have got used to the convenience of Facebook and Google? If they were told they couldn't access those services because we now have a German internet, there'd be riots on the streets."