thoughts and observations of a privacy, security and internet researcher, activist, and policy advisor

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Germany pushing for more Internet Surveillance in EU-USA

The German minister for internal affairs, Wolfgang Schäuble, has just secured 132 Mio Euros extra, against the protest of the finance minister, Peer Steinbrück. The money will be spent over the next three years for the domestic intelligence agency, the federal police agency, and the federal agency for information security, and will, according to news reports, mostly be used for internet surveillance. Schäuble is planning to establish an "Internet Monitoring and Analysis Unit" (Internet Monitoring- und Analysestelle, IMAS) under the auspices of the domestic intelligence agency. About 50 agents are supposed to patrol the net for "suspicious activities" there.

It is unclear what the exact task of this center will be. They might only be surfing the web and trying to learn Arabic, but as they are part of the intelligence service, they also will be able to break into computers and snoop into private communication. The federal crime agency (BKA) is also working on a central database for Internet investigations. German law enforcement agencies are already "patrolling" the public parts of the Internet without initial suspicion, and have established a coordination agency for this as early as 1998.

These developments will not stay in Germany. When Schäuble was in Washington DC recently, he already agreed with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to set up a German-American Task Force for controlling the Internet and for information exchange.

The German government, and especially minister Schäuble, is already pushing the idea of having an internet surveillance unit in each EU members state as "best practice". While there is noisy protest from EU parliamentarians against the sharing of EU citizens' flight data with US agencies at the moment, the governments are preparing a transatlantic zone of intelligence sharing and joint surveillance. This became clear when EU domestic affairs commissioner Frattini said that the EU member states could share retained traffic data with the US, and the indications in the last few days that EU governments would love to use the air passenger data themselves.

Expect the worst for next year here, when Germany will have the EU presidency and the G8 presidency at the same time. German governments have a reputation for coming up with the most boring names for their surveillance projects, while the substance being not much different to "total information awareness". The difference is that nobody notices it.

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