This week, the German government announced they would be ending their contract with Verizon Wireless over concerns of spying authorized through formerly-top-secret NSA initiatives.
Members of Germany’s Interior Ministry made the announcement on Thursday when speaking with the New York Times, and rationalizing their decision wasn’t exactly difficult.
Beyond the clear violation of privacy the company helped support in the tapping of Angela Merkel’s phone, Verizon has also been one of the most open and offering entities when it comes to data transparency between themselves and the NSA or GCHQ.
Officials in charge of the switch refused to disclose exactly how extensive their deals with Verizon were, but according to a spokesman for the agency, the telecom was responsible for maintaining lines between several of their data centers, as well as handling most of the internal phone networks at important landmarks such as the country’s Parliament.
“The relationships between foreign intelligence agencies and companies revealed in the course of the NSA affair show that especially high demands must be made of federal government communications infrastructure that is critical for security,” the ministry said.
Google and Microsoft have already expressed their concerns that NSA spying could be hurting American enterprises both domestically and overseas, and this is just another story in a series of many which seems to back the theory up. The less people trust the companies they’ve given their data to, the less often they’re willing to pay a premium for the opportunity to have that same information pored over by nondescript members of an overseas intelligence agency.
Governments from all around the world have spent decades cooperating with titans of private enterprise to build everything from tanks to basic infrastructure, but when you take away the mutual respect which makes the whole endeavor possible, this is usually the end result. Plus, without the same allowances and leniency they normally enjoy on US soil, companies can struggle to maintain their surveillance clauses in foreign courts, which often take a more scrutinizing tone when it comes to the rights of the people they represent.
It should be noted this move isn’t entirely related to the Snowden leaks either, as the Ministry had been in talks to restructure Verizon’s role in their communication schema since as early as at least 2010. That said, the revelations were enough to finally kick the motion into gear and accelerate a process which would have likely taken years without the sort of fast-track mentality that fuels it now.
By overreaching their bounds, the NSA has stepped right on top of the cycle of trust that used to make partnerships between the public and private sector so exceedingly fruitful in the past. Now, every time a government signs a contract with a telecom they’ll have to read the fine print with a magnifying glass just to be sure there’s nothing that could allow them to legally (or otherwise) break through the veil and use their power for anything else but the commonly agreed upon good.