24th Oct 2016

Germans switch to national email providers after US scandal

  • Germans are outraged at US spying, the minister said (Photo: Valentina Pop)

German people are flocking to national email providers and demanding encryption services normally reserved for corporate security in the wake of the US spying scandal, German justice minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger told journalists in Berlin on Wednesday (28 August).

"German users have reacted to the NSA [the US' National Security Agency] scandal by switching to German email providers … and they are demanding encryption of their emails so far reserved to telecom companies. There is a great opportunity for private encryption," the minister said.

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She claimed that "some 80 percent have done so" already.

A Liberal politician known for her outspoken statements, Schnarrenberger said she herself uses the government email encryption for her work-related communication, which represents the lion's share of her emails.

"I have no encryption for my private email, but I am willing to take one up if it works smoothly," she said, noting that the government encryption service is somewhat cumbersome, especially when travelling abroad.

Users of Gmail or Yahoo Mail - two US-based email giants - cannot exclude the possibility that their chats and emails are being snooped upon by Prism, a far-reaching surveillance programme uncovered by Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), who has since fled to Russia.

Email companies based in Germany and using only German servers cannot so easily be tapped by the NSA or CIA, however.

Observing the switch in their customer's email preference, Deutsche Telekom, the largest internet provider in Germany has launched a service called "Email Made in Germany," offering encryption and storage on local servers.

"Germans are deeply unsettled by the latest reports on the potential interception of communication data. Our initiative is designed to counteract this concern and make e-mail communication throughout Germany more secure in general. Protection of the private sphere is a valuable commodity," Rene Obermann, CEO of Deutsche Telekom said in a press release.

Smaller email companies, such as the Berlin-based Posteo, have also seen a hike in new users.

Offering encrypted connection and full anonymity, Posteo opened 2,000 new accounts last week alone and over 20,000 since the NSA scandal broke, Deutsche Welle reports.

German servers are also in demand.

The so-called Cloud, servers offering remote storage space for individuals and companies alike, is not a US-only phenomenon.

"We expect to benefit from the Prism affair, given that the volume of traffic and the number of new customers have risen by 20 percent in recent weeks," said Roberto Valerio, managing director of Hamburg-based Cloudsafe, which promises a "secure online repository for your most valuable assets."

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