Germany Plans To Ban Computer Companies That Work With NSA From Sensitive Public Contracts
from the hidden-costs-of-hidden-backdoors dept
As early as June last year, Techdirt noted that beyond the political fallout of NSA spying, there is a considerable risk that there will be serious economic consequences too. That's because other countries are now aware that one way the NSA has been obtaining sensitive information is through US computer products that have secret backdoors added in some way. In that post, we mentioned that Sweden had banned the country's public bodies from using Google Apps; it looks like Germany is going even further, as reported here in the international edition of the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung:
Germany's black-red "grand coalition" government has now tightened the rules for awarding sensitive public IT contracts. In cases of doubt, suspicious companies will now be excluded from such contracts. And companies now have to sign documents to the effect that no contracts or laws oblige them -- nor can they be coerced -- to pass on confidential data to foreign secret services or security authorities.
It's not yet clear how that new policy will work in practice. The article goes on to point out that one particular company, Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), known to work for the US secret services, has been receiving plenty of lucrative German government contracts, including testing the German Federal Criminal Police Office's "state Trojan", which we wrote about in 2012, and working with the German Ministry of Justice and Ministry of the Interior. Even if the effects of the new policy are hard to see so far, it's indicative of how the German government is starting to think about and react to the spying revelations. And as further details of NSA subversion of US computer equipment emerge, other governments around the world may well start to do the same.
The new rule would seem to be aimed primarily at American companies. These companies, as numerous Snowden documents reveal, regularly pass on information to the U.S. spy agencies. At the NSA, a separate Special Sources Operations department deals with cooperation with "strategic partners," as agents call such companies. The companies say they are merely following the laws of the respective country, and so far this explanation has been accepted.
But since April, any company that cannot guarantee that foreign services or authorities will not obtain any of their data is being excluded from federal contracts in Germany. A spokesperson for the Ministry of the Interior said that the aim of the new rule is to prevent "the flow of data worth protecting to foreign security authorities."