Germany after Protecting Local Internet from Foreign Intelligence Services
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - As allegations have emerged that US intelligence agents were spying on many leadersو including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, state-backed Deutsche Telekom wants German communications companies to cooperate to shield local internet traffic from foreign intelligence services.
Yet the nascent effort, which took on new urgency after Germany said on Wednesday that it had evidence that Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone had been monitored, faces an uphill battle if it is to be more than a marketing gimmick.
It would not work when Germans surf on websites hosted on servers abroad, such as social network Facebook or search engine Google, according to interviews with six telecom and internet experts. Deutsche Telekom could also have trouble getting rival broadband groups on board because they are wary of sharing network information, Reuters reported.
More fundamentally, the initiative runs counter to how the Internet works today - global traffic is passed from network to network under free or paid-for agreements with no thought for national borders.
If more countries wall themselves off, it could cripple the openness and efficiency that have made the web a source of economic growth, said Dan Kaminsky, a US security researcher.
Deutsche Telekom, which is 32 percent owned by the government, has received backing for its project from the telecoms regulator for potentially giving customers more options.
In August, the company also launched a service dubbed "E-mail made in Germany" that encrypts email and sends traffic exclusively through its domestic servers.
As the row festers, telecom and Internet experts said the rhetoric exceeded the practical changes that could be expected from Deutsche Telekom's project. More than 90 percent of Germany's internet traffic already stays within its borders, said Klaus Landefeld, a board member of the non-profit organization that runs the DE-CIX Internet exchange point in Frankfurt.
Others pointed out that Deutsche Telekom's preference for being paid by other Internet networks for carrying traffic to the end user, instead of "peering" agreements at no cost, clashed with the goal to keep traffic within Germany. It can be cheaper or free for German traffic to go through London or Amsterdam, where it can be intercepted by foreign spies.
Thomas Kremer, the executive in charge of data privacy and legal affairs for the German operator, said the group needed to sign connection agreements with three additional operators to make a national routing possible. "If this were not the case, one could think of a legislative solution," he said.
"As long as sender and receiver are in the Schengen area or in Germany, traffic should no longer be routed through other countries," Kremer said, referring to the 26-country passport-free zone in Europe.
While the routers and switches that direct traffic can be programmed so data travel certain routes, the most popular online services are not built to respect borders.
Web companies often rely on a few large data centers to power their entire operation, and they don't choose locations based on the location of their customers but on factors such as the availability of cheap power, cool climates, and high-speed broadband networks.
Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, angered by reports that the US spied on her and other Brazilians, is pushing legislation that would force Google, Facebook and other internet companies to store locally gathered or user-generated data inside the country.
On Thursday, the UK's Guardian newspaper also reported that it had obtained a confidential memo from the NSA suggesting it had monitored the phones of 35 world leaders.
The latest revelations have been sourced to US whistleblower Edward Snowden, the former intelligence contractor who fled the country earlier this year and is now in Russia.