German Chancellor Angela Merkel

(by Alistair Charlton, International Business Times) – Angela Merkel has called for plans to create a European internet which the United States and its National Security Agency would be blocked from accessing.

The German chancellor said she would press French president Francois Hollande this week to back her proposal for EU [European Union]-based alternatives to the current internet infrastructure, which is dominated by the US.

Speaking in her weekly podcast (German transcript), Merkel said: “We’ll talk with France about how we can maintain a high level of data protection. Above all, we’ll talk with European providers that offer security for our citizens, so that one shouldn’t have to send emails and other information across the Atlantic.”

NSA phone tapping

Merkel was personally implicated in the revelations of widespread spying by the NSA, after documents leaked last year by whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the chancellor’s mobile phone had been tapped since 2002.

Documents obtained by Snowden revealed US intelligence agents had bugged Merkel’s phone from a listening post on the roof of the US embassy in Berlin.

The chancellor’s comments are similar to those made by Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, who said last October she wants to see global internet companies like Google and Facebook store data obtained from Brazilian users inside the country, and not in the US. [Snowden had also revealed that the NSA bugged Rousseff’s cell phone and email, as well as communications by Brazil’s state oil company Petrobras.]

A draft of the new law proposed by Rousseff says: “the government can oblige internet service companies…to install and use centers for the storage, management and dissemination of data within the national territory.”

Questions over practicality

Speaking anonymously to the Financial Times, one US internet service provider said it has questions over the practicalities of how email between the US and other countries would work under the proposed system.

But Merkel’s plans to sidestep the NSA and its mass surveillance of citizens around the world would not work, Snowden has previously stated.

In an interview given to German state broadcaster ADR in late January, Snowden said creating an EU [European Union] network that did not interact with US servers would not defend Europe from espionage. “The NSA goes where the data are. If the NSA can pull text messages out of telecommunications networks in China, they can probable manage to get Facebook messages out of Germany,” Snowden said.

In her podcast, Merkel criticised Google and Facebook for basing their European operations “where data protection is lowest,” [while being active in countries such as Germany with high data protection].  She added: “That’s something that in the long run we can’t endorse in Europe.”

Merkel’s plans appear to be part of a broader initiative by Germany to stand up to espionage conducted by the US. Der Spiegel magazine said this week it had obtained information about plans by Germany’s main domestic intelligence agency for a “massive” increase in counter-espionage measures, reports the Independent.

The magazine revealed plans by Germany to subject both the US and British embassies in Berlin to surveillance; such measures are said to include obtaining details about technologies used within the embassies.

In November, German intelligence officials told reporters in a press briefing that the country lacks sufficient technology to effectively monitor electronic surveillance, and it would seek more funds to equip technology with boosted counterespionage capabilities.

Originally published Feb. 17.  Reprinted here for educational purposes only.  May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from The International Business Times (


1. Who is Angela Merkel?

2. What will Mrs. Merkel propose creating in Europe during her meeting with French President Hollande?

3. Why is Mrs. Merkel making this proposal?

4. What similar proposal has President Dilma Rousseff made in Brazil (South America’s largest economy)?

5. What concerns does an unnamed U.S. internet service provider have about Mrs. Merkel’s proposal? (also see “Background” below the questions for this answer)

6. Re-read paragraphs 12-14. What was your initial reaction to Germany’s plan, as well as the government’s current lack of ability to carry it out?

7. All countries’ governments spy on each other.
a) Do you think the NSA went too far by tapping Chancellor Merkel and President Rousseff’s cell phones? (Before you answer: Do you think if any leader had the opportunity to spy on President Obama or our government they would not do so?)
b) Do you think Snowden’s revelations harmed U.S.-foreign relations? (Was it good or bad for this information to be exposed?) Explain your answer.
c) Ask a parent the same questions.


Internet service providers questioned the utility of Ms. Merkel’s proposals. One U.S. company, which refused to be named, said there were questions over the practicalities of how email between the U.S. and countries in this undefined new service would work.

Some tech experts have warned that proposals to build alternative networks in Europe and force internet companies to store data about Europeans locally fail to take account of how the internet operates, or the continued legal obligation of American companies to turn information over to the NSA no matter where it is stored. US tech companies have also warned that a move to build secure regional networks would fragment the internet, turning it into a series of isolated regional data systems. (from a Feb. 16 Financial Times report)

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