Shun U.S. web services, top German minister urges privacy-minded citizens

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Germany’s interior minister has suggested that people should stop using Google and Facebook if they fear interception by U.S. spies.

According to the AP, Hans-Peter Friedrich said on Wednesday that “whoever fears their communication is being intercepted in any way should use services that don’t go through American servers.” His call comes in the wake of Edward Snowden’s PRISM revelations, which showed how the NSA can easily access even supposedly private data on U.S. cloud services, at mass scale.

Friedrich is one of the first senior European politicians to explicitly urge privacy-minded citizens to avoid using U.S. services, although EU Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes said a couple of weeks ago that “the PRISM debate will definitely increase calls for a European cloud, with a range of possible consequences for American companies.”

However, shunning Google and Facebook may not be a cure-all for keeping private communications private. Snowden also exposed a British program called Tempora, which allegedly involves the tapping of the fiber-optic cables that constitute the backbone of the internet – if that is the case, then all communications may be intercepted, regardless of where the service provider is located.

German data protection officials have urged the federal government to “do everything to protect the people in Germany against access to their data by third parties,” and have also called for explanations around how much the German government knew about PRISM and Tempora before the scandal broke.

Ironically, Friedrich defended NSA spying just a couple of weeks ago, arguing that the U.S. was an important partner in the fight against terrorism. That was, however, before it emerged that the U.S. was heavily spying on Germans.

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