Deutsche Telekom offers “made in Germany” encrypted email to combat NSA surveillance

Michelle Kuepper 2013-08-12 7

The NSA surveillance scandal continues to dominate German news headlines and has become a key political topic in the lead-up to the country’s federal election. Now, German telecommunications provider Deutsche Telekom is tapping into public unease about using US-based email providers and launching a new encrypted service, “E-mail Made in Germany“. It claims to provide tighter security by only using data centres on German soil – thereby avoiding all US channels.

In collaboration with United Internet, Deutsche Telekom’s new email service promises to process and store all email data in “secure data centres located in Germany”. It lets users see which of their email recipients also have secure email addresses and comply with the initiative’s security standards.

Deutsche Telekom CEO René Obermann explained the need for the service: “Germans are deeply unsettled by the latest reports on the potential interception of communication data. Our initiative is designed to counteract this concern and make email communication throughout Germany more secure in general. Protection of the private sphere is a valuable commodity.”

United Internet CEO Ralph Dommermuth said: “Together, we have a strong customer basis [sic], which means the initiative offers secure communication for two-thirds of all email users in Germany… Alongside email encryption and the designation of secure email addresses, a third key element relates to data processing and archiving, which is carried out in Germany. This ensures that Germany’s stringent data privacy laws are complied with.”

Deutsche Telekom is open to other German email providers joining in the future, as long as they meet the same security standards.

US internet companies are facing a backlash for allowing NSA services access to their users’ data, regardless of whether these users are based in the US. In documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, it was shown that Germany was as large a target for surveillance as Iraq and China – with half a billion phone calls, texts and emails investigated every month.

What Deutsche Telekom fails to address with its new service is the spying happening on its very own turf. German secret service BND confirmed it provided surveillance data for the NSA after Snowden leaked information revealing the BND sent 500 documents to the US intelligence organisation last December alone. To what extent the “made in Germany” email service will be able to combat German surveillance has not yet been revealed by Deutsche Telekom.

Image credit: Flickr user  Dirk Duckhorn

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