Germany's Spies Store 11 Billion Pieces Of Phone Metadata A Year -- And Pass On 6 Billion To The NSA

from the bad-sex dept

Given Germany's high-profile attachment to privacy, it's always interesting to hear about ways in which its spies have been ignoring that tradition. Here, for example, is a story in the German newspaper Die Zeit about the country's foreign intelligence agency BND gathering metadata from millions of phone records every day:

Zeit Online has learned from secret BND documents that five agency locations are involved in gathering huge amounts of metadata. Metadata vacuumed up across the world -- 220 million pieces of it every single day -- flows into BND branch offices in the German towns of Schöningen, Reinhausen, Bad Aibling and Gablingen. There, they are stored for between a week and six months and sorted according to still-unknown criteria.

Exactly where the BND obtains the data remains unclear. The Bundestag [German parliament] committee investigating the NSA spying scandal has uncovered that the German intelligence agency intercepts communications traveling via both satellites and Internet cables. The 220 million metadata are only one part of what is amassed from these eavesdropping activities. It is certain that the metadata only come from "foreign dialed traffic," in other words, from telephone conversations and text messages that are held and sent via mobile telephony and satellites.
As in the US and UK, the German spies attempt to pull the "it's only metadata, so it's not surveillance" trick:
Many people don't realize how much information can be derived from metadata -- and the BND is working hard to keep it that way. For example, during hearings before the Bundestag committee investigating the NSA affair, intelligence officials have consistently spoken about "routine traffic" whenever they have actually meant metadata. Given that the German word for "traffic" is the same as that for "intercourse," this has sounded more like bad sex and has aimed to obscure the fact that hidden behind it was comprehensive, groundless and massive surveillance.

What's more, the officials have argued that they are permitted to vacuum up this kind of routine traffic all over the world without any restrictions and to use it as they see fit. However, Peter Schaar doesn't share this view at all. Instead, the German government's former commissioner for data protection and freedom of information believes that metadata should also be protected by the basic right of privacy of correspondence, posts and telecommunications guaranteed by Article 10 of Germany’s Basic Law.
This long and interesting report is important for the insight it gives us about what the BND is up to -- despite Germany's stringent laws -- as well as the news that the German intelligence service passes 500 million pieces of metadata to the NSA every month. General Michael Hayden, former director of the NSA and the CIA, famously said: "We kill people based on metadata." That means privacy-loving Germany could be implicated in some of those deaths. And there's another aspect to the story worth noting. Nowhere does Die Zeit say that this information comes from Edward Snowden. Once again, it looks as if his example is inspiring others to shine a little light on the murky world of surveillance.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

Filed Under: bnd, germany, metadata, nsa, privacy, surveillance


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Feb 2015 @ 1:28am

    Apparently Germany don't even pretend to be Peace-loving anymore.

    Privacy is kinda human right somewhere, right?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Feb 2015 @ 4:20am

      Re:

      Actually, they're going by the Patrician Vetinari school of privacy; the fewer secrets we have, the friendlier we shall remain.

      Sadly, that assumes that there isn't a warmongering nation out there.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anon E. Mous (profile), 4 Feb 2015 @ 1:35am

    Another day a different government using it's spy agency to spy on foreign and domestic communications.

    With all revelations lately of what different governments around the world are doing to spy on citizens and non citizens of their respective countries, I would be of the belief that you may as well assume that where ever you go, count on any form of communication you use to be hoovered up in said countries dragnet.

    While I am sure they will say they are only looking to scoop up conversation of bad entities there is no way they can nor would they want to filter out communications of little billy and grandma discussing what he wants for his birthday.

    While I am sure said government will state they have no interest in those types of conversations, they aren't saying they won't be grabbing them either.

    It's just amazing now how the privacy we all thought we once had is almost non existent now, and these revelations just bring forward how much our right to privacy has been eroded and how the governments employing these methods will fight to keep their citizens from knowing the truth.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 4 Feb 2015 @ 2:16am

    And you thought Stasi was dead. HAH!

    Seems somebody learned nothing from past mistakes. As a song here says: "So goes humanity in ant steps and unwilling".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Feb 2015 @ 3:43am

      Re:

      Stasi was in the DDR which was "russian". Besides they were small compared to the NSA.

      https://apps.opendatacity.de/stasi-vs-nsa/english.html

      The BND is just jealous of the NSA and uses their methods to try to keep up. How would you feel if you are a spy agency and cant play the information trading game because you aren't allowed to collect stuff?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 Feb 2015 @ 5:06am

        Re: Re:

        Its the cold war mentallity, they have weapons, so we must have weapons, with the nature of this particular case, everybody has weapons.......what stays the same is that EVERYBODY suffers by the actions of the few

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Feb 2015 @ 4:30am

      Re:

      This is even worse than the Stasi. At least they had the decency to stay on their turf and had nowhere near this much technology.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Adolf Hitler, 4 Feb 2015 @ 3:15am

    Proud papa

    im so glad to see that my countrymen are upholding the traditions of the Nazi party and continuing what I started. You dumbkopfs need to shut your traps or you'll end up where I put all the Jews.

    Adolf Hitler
    Heil me

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Feb 2015 @ 5:09am

      Re: Proud papa

      Im quite flattered, thats quite a compliment, thankyou Adolf

      Yours sincerly
      Germany
      Uk
      Us
      Canada
      France
      Etc etc

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Feb 2015 @ 4:12am

    UK
    US
    CANADA
    FRANCE
    GERMANY
    WAITING FOR MORE

    "Im making a list, im checking it twice, im gonna find out who's naughty and nice"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Feb 2015 @ 4:50am

      Re:

      The "free" nations

      Power corrupts
      Absolute power corrupts absolutely

      In a history filled with officially confirmed false flags durring the world wars, i worry that with this new authority given to them, by themselves, surveilance/terrorism, i worry that IF false flags are still a tool today, as they were back then......then i fear the kind of power, i fear due to the nature of the action, just where are we heading.........i know one thing for sure will suffer, makes me really appreciate the saying "give me liberty or give me death".........the goal should be to abolish social classes, not reinforce them, we should strive for a future were our goal is to become equal, not a goal of monarchies and empires, which are the basis of what we have today, we have a bad foundation problem, and a bad history repeating itself problem

      Until i see THESE kinda issues being identified, discussed and understood by 100% of any representaion, a worthwile continous effort to take these VERY serious issues into account when imposing on others that is not yourself, then at the bare minimum, i cant back that

      I dont WANT a revolution because i care not to risk other individuals in what may, may not happen, whichever side starts it, but something akin to revolution in my mind needs to happen in many western government, that would be an internal MASSIVE MASSIVE restruction, the kinda were 99% of the population thinks "i cant believe they seem to be actually trying this time"............you know, a world were individual right actually means something, something worth representing for....and hopefully something instinctual to future and ENTIRE generations...........our idealogies have been stagnating for far to long.........i dont think the most perfect wonderful utopia awaits those generations, but i do think there are many more levels alot closer to utopia then what we have today, we have some good things.........but its how i fear these bad things will continue to perpetually keep stagnant at the level we are today........

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Pragmatic, 5 Feb 2015 @ 5:18am

      Re:

      When we finally get the [Sad but true] button, please can we have a [Creepy] one?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Feb 2015 @ 4:59am

    Im interested to see how the german nation feels about this

    To the german individuals who care, on behalf of themselves, and therefore myself, i thankyou and wish you and your nation luck and comaderie....

    I stand by you

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ben (profile), 4 Feb 2015 @ 6:17am

    Math?

    Using the numbers provided:

    220 million/day x 365 days = 80 billion / year
    500 million/month x 12 months = 6 billion / year

    where does the 11 billion from the title come from?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 4 Feb 2015 @ 7:18am

    Where is the other 5 billion you owe us?

    - The NSA

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Zonker, 4 Feb 2015 @ 11:08am

    For example, during hearings before the Bundestag committee investigating the NSA affair, intelligence officials have consistently spoken about "routine traffic" whenever they have actually meant metadata. Given that the German word for "traffic" is the same as that for "intercourse," this has sounded more like bad sex and has aimed to obscure the fact that hidden behind it was comprehensive, groundless and massive surveillance.
    I, for one, do not want my personal "routine intercourse" monitored by any government.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Feb 2015 @ 12:54pm

    There is more

    The BND is allowed to take 20% of the all the traffic in Germany but only from foreigners. To do this they listen at the DE-CIX (largest internet exchange point in the world) in a way that if f.e. there are 10 cables they take 100% of 2 of those. But those 2 cables also transport traffic from germans which they are not allowed to take. That means they are breaking the law by design. The BND stated that they needed new laws so that this pratice is covered although it isn't illegal from their point of view because filters and all.

    This was mentioned in the NSA committee if you want to look it up.

    I get Godwin's law but in this meta data example it isn't Germany that is doing the killing, that is the USA. But on the other hand the USA is using the term "race" so maybe the Hitler analogy isn't that far off.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 5 Feb 2015 @ 12:00am

      Re: There is more

      The BND stated that they needed new laws so that this pratice is covered although it isn't illegal from their point of view because filters and all.

      Gotta love how blatant they are in admitting that as it stands now they're breaking the law, and know it. If what they are doing was already legal and within the law, they they wouldn't need to change a thing, the fact that they admit that they need new laws to cover their actions makes it abundantly clear that, despite their claims to the contrary, even they know that their actions are currently illegal.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Personanongrata, 4 Feb 2015 @ 3:15pm

    Schild und Schwert der Partei

    Das Ministerium für Staatssicherheit ist lebendig und gut.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2015 @ 12:17pm

    That explains why they didn't complain about the NSA spying.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    GEMont (profile), 5 Feb 2015 @ 1:08pm

    The Future

    Hmmmmm.... I wonder.

    The Five Eyes is basically a gang of White, English Speaking Countries, who spy on and share data about the whole world's civilian population, but Germany and France can also be considered White, albeit not English Speaking, and it is apparent that they too share stolen data about the world's population with the members of the Five Eyes.

    I wonder if there is an affiliate organization - something like the 5 Ears or Fingers - composed of White, Non-English speaking countries like France and Germany.

    If I was a Non-White, Non-English speaking country, I'd be a little concerned about this White Guy Coalition and its agenda.

    Perhaps the Octopus that the US spies use as their logo represents something far more sinister than even the comic book version of that logo claimed.

    Could all or most of the current White-Guy governments have followed along the same lines as the USA after 9/11, and declared secret war on their populations.... so that those in power might finally reinstate a global feudal government and prevent the public from realizing that government as an institution is obsolete and un-necessary and a dangerous thing to entertain.

    Most self aware critters and organizations will fight tooth and nail to avoid extinction.

    ---

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: I Invented Email
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.