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'Unlike Germany, the US is apathetic to spying'

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Photo: DPA
14:46 CEST+02:00
As the data surveillance scandal unravels further and evidence of new data-tapping arises daily, Germany's press is in overdrive discussing the implications. The Local's Media Round-up delves into some of the juicy bits.

Germany is known for its love of data protection and has reacted much more loudly to cable tapping than their Anglo-Saxon counterparts. Malte Lehming argues in the Tagesspiegel that people in the UK and US have been more closely interested in the potential terrorist attacks that governments say they want to use the intelligence to prevent.

“It is a puzzle. Anglo-Saxons, especially Americans, seem to distance themselves somewhat from state control. They don't trust their governments and depend on private initiatives to solve social problems.

“Lots of Americans find paying certain taxes to be an unreasonable demand – universal health care seems socialist, a central register of citizens an unacceptable invasion of their privacy. They hold the concept of freedom very high. Yet they react coolly, apathetically almost towards Prism or Tempora, or any Orwellian-type intelligence programmes,” the article said.

This could be, Lehming argued, due to a difference in history. Germans, with their background of Stasi and Gestapo spies are guarded against surveillance culture becoming the norm while in the UK and US, recent terrorist attacks “gave an aura of importance to extensive security measures.”

Yet conservative daily newspaper Die Welt has a different theory. This is that Germany has been forced be more selective about whom and what it keeps tabs on due to having less actual equipment to do so.

“Since September 11th the US has been lacking a benchmark” in moderation, the article argued. Self-moderation is, it acknowledged, one of the hardest things to achieve, especially in the world of technology.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung discussed the concept of secrecy and legality. As the fate of Edward Snowden remains unclear, so does the extent of whom and what “our American and British friends' secret services” were watching.

But the paper urged readers to remember that “not everything that takes place in secret is automatically illegal.” People living in a democracy should be able to trust that the government was acting within the law. There still remained “an internationally safeguarded right to privacy and the protection of one's inner sanctum from arbitrary invasion of the state,” the paper suggested.

For the Frankfurter Rundschau, the surveillance scandal has thrown up questions about the use of spying for the greater good. “Technology's current state means that people – like authorities and companies – are unavoidably instruments of communicating encrypted data," it said.

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It remained unanswered, however, what rules a world was being governed with when “every single exchange of communication can legally be listened to in the name of anti-terrorism.”

The Local/DPA/jcw

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