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Email users flock to German companies in wake of NSA leaks

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Since former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden disclosed that the U.S. National Security Agency spied on customers of American email providers, German tech companies have seen a boom in new business.

According to Der Spiegel, revelations that the NSA has collected emails from Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and other Silicon Valley enterprises have pushed Internet users around the world toward more secure German alternatives.

One provider, Freenet, has seen an 80 percent increase in the number of new subscribers in the last few weeks. Another company, 1&1, told the German magazine it saw a six figure increase in its customer base.

The program through which the NSA accesses American email servers, known as PRISM, uses secret warrants obtained through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to access data.

Since the court was founded in 1978, it has issued tens of thousands of warrants for information and denied only 11. (The court disputes the accuracy of this assertion, insisting that many warrant applications are denied before they are officially submitted and thus not counted.)

The precise economic cost suffered by American tech companies in the wake of PRISM aren’t known, but some estimates put the number at $35 billion.

As Der Spiegel pointed out, it isn’t yet clear whether or not the increase in email subscribers to German companies also reflects an equivalent decrease in for the customer base of U.S. providers.

If nothing else, the shift towards German email companies indicates that a sizable portion of Internet users are attempting to take agency over their online privacy rights in the wake of the NSA leaks.

Of course, Snowden also revealed that the German intelligence agency, the BND, has worked closely with the NSA. In the past, the two outfits have shared surveillance data, leaving some question as to the security of emails inside Germany.

Photo by potomos.photography/Flickr