German Government Official Wants Backdoors In Every Device Connected To The Internet

from the bring-back-the-old-Germany-we-know-and-hate! dept

The US Department of Justice is reviving its anti-encryption arguments despite not being given any signals from the administration or Congress that undermining encryption is something either entity desires. The same thing is happening in Germany, with Interior Secretary Thomas de Maizière continuing an anti-encryption crusade very few German government officials seem interested in joining.

The key difference in de Maizière's push is that he isn't limiting potential backdoors to cell phones. He appears to believe anything connected to the internet should be backdoored… possibly even the cars German citizens drive. (h/t Riana Pfefferkorn)

The RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland (RND) reported that Thomas de Maizière had written up a draft proposal for the interior minister conference, taking place next week in Leipzig, which he has called “the legal duty for third parties to allow for secret surveillance.”

According to the RND, the proposal would “dramatically extend” the state’s powers to spy on its citizens.

And it's not just backdoors being suggested. De Maizière wants all electronics to be law enforcement-complicit. All things -- especially those connected to the internet -- should be constructed with government access in mind.

For example, the modern locking systems on cars are so intelligent that they even warn a driver if their car is shaken a little bit. De Maizière wants the new law to ensure that these alerts would not be sent out to a car owner if the police determined it to be justified by their investigation.

De Maizière wants the government to be able to intercept and block notifications sent from cars to the people that own them. But it's far more than smarter cars being compromised on behalf of the government. If de Maizière gets his way, it will be every connected device everywhere.

De Maizière also wants the security services to have the ability to spy on any device connected to the internet. Tech companies would have to give the state "back door" access to private tablets and computers, and even to smart TVs and digital kitchen systems.

It's rare for government officials to blatantly state citizens should be under surveillance at all times. Craftier politicians tend to use less direct rhetoric, even if they aspire to the same goals. This blatant call for mass surveillance of millions of innocent people has provoked a reaction from de Maizière's colleagues, although probably not the one he was looking for.

The proposal was met with astonishment by digital activists and politicians on Friday.

De Maizière seems blissfully unaware Germany was once home to a powerful dictator who killed millions of his own citizens while deploying a secret police force. And once that period ended, part of Germany rolled directly into a program of intense domestic surveillance utilizing the Stasi -- one of the most brutally effective secret police forces ever wielded by a government against its own people. De Maizière's proposal is so tone deaf -- given the history of the nation he serves -- it's tempting to believe he's an under-recognized satirist. But de Maizière seems completely serious. Fortunately for Germans, no one else seems to take de Maizière quite as seriously as he does.


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