It turns out that it isn’t only Americans who have become outraged over the recent leaks regarding privacy breaches made by the US government in recent years. Numerous German citizens and politicians have expressed their own outrage over the questionable PRISM data collection practices, with some going as far as to compare the American government to the German Stasi (Ministry for State Security) that existed during the communist reign over East Germany.
Why is it that Germans have become so concerned over the data collection being done in the United States? Part of the NSA leak that was released by Edward Snowden late last week included a map of how much secret surveillance was taking place in each country. It turns out that Germany was the most spied on country in the entire EU by a long shot. In fact, Germany seems to be in the same level as China, Iran, Pakistan, and Iraq, while being even higher than Syria.
According to the leak, PRISM is system for which the NSA uses to collect private data from Internet users on some of the most used online services, including Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Apple. The US government hasn’t been shy about admitting its existence, but the companies whose servers are being accessed to gain the info have denied the claims.
Markus Ferber, a member of the European Parliament for Bavaria, said in a statement to Reuters that Washington DC is using “American-style Stasi methods” and commented that “I thought this era had ended when the DDR fell”.
Germany’s Justice Minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, wants an explanation from her American counterpart, Eric Holder. She wrote in a Spiegel editorial piece that “the more a society monitors, controls and observes its citizens, the less free it is… The suspicion of excessive surveillance of communication is so alarming that it cannot be ignored. For that reason, openness and clarification by the US administration itself is paramount at this point.”
While President Barack Obama has defended the US governments practices by saying that there needs to be some trade-offs in privacy for the sake of national security, and that you can’t have full security as well as privacy without any inconvenience, his statements are geared more towards American citizens. Germany’s federal data protection commissioner, Peter Schaar, explained that “American laws only protect Americans” and Europeans, including Germans, are left unprotected from US surveillance programs.
With the upcoming elections in Germany, Angela Merkel is feeling the pressure to address the issue with President Obama when he arrives in Berlin on June 18, and has confirmed that she will be questioning Obama when he arrives. The timing couldn’t be any worse for President Obama, and the reaction he receives will more than likely be drastically different than his previous visit before the 2008 elections when he addressed a crowd of over 200,000 fans in Berlin.