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Privacy

Telekom hopes to stave off NSA snoops by keeping Internet traffic in Germany

Deutsche Telekom is pushing to shield Internet traffic from spies by routing it through German servers. Outrage followed revelations that US surveillance programs had accessed the private messages of German citizens.

Telekom had already announced that it would channel local email traffic through servers within Germany, but the push for cooperation with competitors represents a new element. The company aims to reach an agreement with other Internet providers that any data transmitted domestically would not leave German borders, said Thomas Kremer, a member of Bonn-based Telekom's board of management for data privacy, legal affairs and compliance.

"In a next step, this initiative could be expanded to the Schengen area," Kremer said, referring to the 26 EU countries - excluding Britain - that have abandoned controls on land borders.

Revelations of snooping by the secret services of the United States and Britain leaked by the fugitive former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden further fueled the privacy debate within Germany. The news magazine Spiegel reported in June that the US taps half a billion phone calls, emails and text messages in Germany in a typical month. Government snooping remains a sensitive subject in Germany, after decades of heavy surveillance of citizens in the former East and years of it nationwide under Hitler's Nazis.

"We want to guarantee that no byte between senders and recipients within Germany will even temporarily cross the border," Kremer said.

The magazine WirtschaftsWoche reported that companies such as Vodafone and Telefonica would consider whether to join the plan by Germany's biggest Internet provider. QSC, another Telekom competitor, has, however, questioned the feasibility of the plan to shield traffic, calling it impossible to determine clearly whether data would travel nationally or internationally, the magazine reported.

mkg/hc (Reuters, AFP, dpa)