Achtung baby: Germany adores metadata as much as the NSA

3 Feb 2015

Metadata seems to be the smack of state surveillance, now it’s Germany that just can’t get enough.

A new in-depth report from Die Zeit newspaper in Germany has uncovered how the European state gravitated towards the indiscriminate collection of metadata following the September 11 attacks on the US in 2001.

It seems Germany’s own surveillance agency (the BND) has gotten a taste for metadata, just like agencies elsewhere – such as the US National Security Agency (NSA) and UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) – and, rather than investigating individual suspects, the agency is placing its bets on mass surveillance after a “paradigm shift”.

An awful lot of listening in

Die Zeit claims the BND scoops up 220m metadata every day, through satellites and internet cables. This is just the phone-related surveillance, with the extent of web-based surveillance as yet unknown.

Germany has built several sites to store all this information, with Schöningen, Reinhausen, Bad Aibling and Gablingen home to the daily flows of largely worthless information. A select 1pc travels to a fifth location for “long-term analysis”.

It’s hardly surprising, given that Germany has been trying to create a sort of partnership between it and the US in terms of surveillance projects.

Indeed the US is undergoing its own “paradigm shift”, with President Barack Obama set to announce changes to how the NSA stores metadata. It seems that, on the back of pressure from the EU (notably Germany) the NSA’s storage of everything, forever, is a bit rude.

Slight changes for greater co-operation

So Obama is set to propose the deletion of all non-suspicious information acquired through surveillance on American citizens after one year.

The new rules will require the NSA to “delete private information they may incidentally collect about Americans that has no intelligence purpose, and to delete similar information about foreigners within five years,” according to The New York Times. This follows Obama’s move to apparently halt the monitoring of certain state leaders, most notably German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as per former CIA contractor Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations.

Elsewhere, the NSA will face oversight via a White House-led annual review, something that had been missing prior to now. This apparent change comes only days before Merkel visits the US, “where a long-debated arrangement for greater intelligence sharing between the countries is expected to be discussed”.

Eavesdropping image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic