The Bundesregierung is switching contracts for a range of telecommunications services from US carrier Verizon to German company Deutsche Telekom.
It is concerned about the fact that as a US owned and domiciled company, Verizon is subject to greater surveillance by the US National Security Agency (NSA).
There was much comment after whistleblower Ed Snowden’s revelations about the extent of the NSA’s monitoring activities that they might adversely affect the ability of some US companies to operate internationally. Those forecasts appear to be coming true – and Verizon is the one that is suffering.
Germany takes data privacy very seriously, and was unimpressed with the disclosure that the NSA monitored Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone calls. The NSA refused requests to hand over its files on Merkel prompting unfavourable comparisons with the ease with which Germans can access files from the Stasi, the former East German security agency.
“Verizon’s contracts with the German Government are not being renewed as they expire. It is not a cancellation,” said German Interior Ministry spokesman Tobias Plate at a press conference, when asked about the move.
“There is a clause allowing the Government to switch to another provider. The Government has taken this option, so there is no compensation due to early termination of the contract. The plan is that it will be taken over by Deutsche Telekom. The contract is not yet signed, but we do not wish to comment on the value of the contract.”
Plante was then asked if the move was because Verizon may have passed information to the NSA, and if so why it had not happened sooner. “I cannot confirm that we are exercising our right [to end the contract] because we suspect Verizon will pass something on to the NSA. But it is true that it has to do with the revelations about NSA, as the decision has matured in the light of the NSA revelations.
“We will therefore cooperate with German companies where possible