German Telecom Spying Ignites Privacy Uproar

Internal tracing of press leaks leads to calls for government probe
By Jonas Oransky,  Newser Staff
Posted May 27, 2008 4:35 PM CDT
CEO Rene Obermann, left, and new chairman of the director's board Ulrich Lehner smile during the annual shareholders meeting.   (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
camera-icon View 5 more images

(Newser) – German phone giant Deutsche Telekom has ignited a privacy firestorm by admitting it tracked board members’ phone calls to root out the source of embarrassing press leaks. The dominant national fixed-line provider revealed “severe and far-reaching” misuse of private information, generating anger in a country sensitive to civil liberties abuses, the New York Times reports.

The breaches came after the security department hired an outside firm to monitor contacts between board members and reporters in 2005 and 2006, when the company saw many layoffs. The snoopers did not listen to the calls. Prosecutors are now looking in to the matter; the government, which controls 32% of the company, characterized the spying as a “serious breach of trust.”