- Daniel Caesar dons cape for whiteness—and gets canceled 5 Years Ago
- Triton is a new malware ‘deliberately’ designed to put lives at risk Today 3:23 PM
- ‘Into the Dark: I’m Just F*cking with You’ is one of the series’ best Today 1:54 PM
- Trump’s latest prop, a map of ISIS, gets memed Today 12:54 PM
- HBO sends fans on a global scavenger hunt for 6 Iron Thrones Today 11:51 AM
- The Awkward Family Photos game is Cards Against Humanity for meme lovers Today 11:50 AM
- London firefighters’ organization accuses ‘Peppa Pig’ of sexism Today 11:41 AM
- YouTuber accused of abusing her children to make kid-friendly content Today 11:20 AM
- Ari Fleischer’s Iraq War tweet isn’t going over well Today 10:54 AM
- Cop arrested for recording man’s genitals, forcing mentally ill man to twerk Today 10:37 AM
- MoviePass rebrands its unlimited plan, again Today 10:37 AM
- Former Alaska senator launches meme-filled 2020 primary campaign Today 10:17 AM
- The Shane Dawson cat controversy has resulted in these sex memes Today 10:06 AM
- Sarah Sanders mocks CNN reporter with ‘dear diary’ tweet Today 9:03 AM
- Know what you’re signing up for thanks to these dating site reviews Today 8:58 AM
Germany to ice-out government contractors that work with the NSA
But will Germany break ties with one of their its contractors?
Incensed over collusion between U.S. tech companies and American intelligence agencies, the German government plans to cut ties with firms that share secrets with the U.S. government—with one notable exception.
Amid the din of international backlash against U.S. spying, Germany has been one of the most vocal critics. Anger with the U.S. hit a fever pitch last fall when it was revealed that American spies had tapped the personal phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. And even though the German government has been implicated in collaborating with the National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on its own citizens, politicians there are eager to make a show of protecting privacy rights.
According to Worldcrunch—citing research from German news outlets Süddeutsche Zeitung and NDR—the ruling “black-red” coalition government is modifying the rules under which it awards public IT contracts. Companies competing for government work will now have to sign documents stating “to the effect that no contracts or laws oblige them – nor can they be coerced – to pass on confidential data to foreign secret services or security authorities.”
That does nothing, however, to prevent the German government from prying into its own citizens’ information; it’s squarely aimed at keeping the American government from freely accessing the same data. Since Edward Snowden first came forward with information about the top secret PRISM program last June, numerous NSA documents have shown that the government regularly colludes with or coerces American tech companies into giving up information about their customers.
By refusing to do business with companies that fall under the long reach of the NSA and other American intelligence agencies, the German government should be able to free it’s citizens—in theory.
However, even glossing over the fact that many Germans will still used American Internet services on their own, skeptics wonder if the government can actually break itself completely from all American contractors.
Worldcrunch’s Frederik Obermaier and Benedikt Strunz point toward the German government’s close ties to subsidiaries of the American Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC). CSC is a firm based in Falls Church, Va., just outside Washington. With more than 80,000 employees, it is among the world’s largest outsourcing firms, providing IT services to numerous private companies as well as domestic and foreign government agencies.
In Germany, subsidiary firms of CSC are responsible for more than 100 federal and state contracts related to data collection, a “state Trojan” program for spying on citizens, and an electronic filing system for the Federal Supreme Court, among other projects.
Perhaps most troubling to German privacy and human rights advocates was the role a CSC firm played in the extraordinary rendition of Khaled el-Masri, a Kuwaiti-born German citizen who was abducted and held by CIA agents for four months in 2004. El-Masri was caught up in a wave of post-9/11 detentions, mistakenly taken by authorities because his name was similar to that of a suspected terrorist. A European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2012 that el-Masri’s treatment at the hands of CIA agents amounted to torture.
Yet even in the wake of that scandal, German governments have continued to do business with CSC, noting that the company was never convicted of any criminal wrongdoing for its role in el-Masri’s capture. And critics question whether these new rules for government contracts will have any real impact on the CSC’s relationship with the state.
“The powers that be at CSC point to the fact that the German subsidiaries ‘have no contractual relation to the U.S. government,'” Worldcrunch writes. “Business with American secret services is conducted by ‘a separate, independent business arm headquartered in the United States.’ But just how separate can the business of subsidiaries of the same firm really be?”
Photo by Alex Murphy/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Tim Sampson is a reporter who focused on the technology, business, and politics beats. He's also an established comedy writer, with work on Comedy Central and in The Onion and ClickHole.