Blog Post

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

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

Germany’s interior minister has suggested that people should stop using Google(s goog) and Facebook(s fb) 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.

6 Responses to “Shun U.S. web services, top German minister urges privacy-minded citizens”

  1. george

    I do my best to avoid US based cloud services. The US is trying to claw its way into every aspect of our lives, regardless of where we live. Frankly, I am not a US citizen, and as far as I’m concerned they have no place in my affairs.

    Wuala is a great alternative to the US based services.

  2. Just because servers are located in the U.S, does not necessarily mean everything shared via that server can be monitored. I created ThreadThat dot com as a free, simple web app that provides many security features (e.g. auto logoff, 2-factor authentication, account reset prevention) and provides end-to-end military-strength encryption for threaded conversations and their attachments. Nothing shared via TT is ever sent or stored in plain text, never passes through a 3rd-party server and the owner of the conversation controls the passkey used in the encryption. An email account is required to sign up and to get thread notifications (configurable), but no other personal data is collected. TT allows anonymous sharing so that even those without a TT account can access encrypted content if they have a link and a passkey. So, it is not necessary to stop using all U.S. cloud services, just those that do not offer encryption.

  3. ricdesan

    Man, back in the day when I turned my back on FB I was prescient about Zero privacy, but now I wish I could avoid all the US traitor companies! Oh well, welcome to our ‘MeriKa’ overlord!

  4. Of course the problem is what to replace them with. Facebook is used by so many people because it’s used by all their friends – classic problem. You could just stop using it entirely but many people use a simplistic argument of “I don’t have anything to hide”. is a good piece on why that is faulty.

    Google apps is easier to replace in the sense you can just move to an EU service/run your own, but that’s not trivial. Migration itself is difficult the more you use such integrated services – docs, calendar, G+, mail, contacts, etc. Compounded if you have to force everyone in an organisation to switch too!