Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

German State Government Accused of Spying on Citizens

BY Antonella Napolitano | Friday, October 21 2011

The Chaos Computer Club, the largest group of activist hackers in Europe, released a report (in German) of the analysis they conducted on a backdoor Trojan allegedly used by the German police of the state of Bavaria during investigations in order to capture VoIP and IM communication on a suspect's PC.

While the German Government is permitted to conduct some forms of “source wiretapping” (Quellen-TKÜ), this software, which can be installed on a person's computer through an e-mail, would seem to go further.

The CCC group explained their findings in a blogpost:

The CCC analysis reveals functionality in the "Bundestrojaner light" (Bundestrojaner meaning "federal trojan" and is the colloquial German term for the original government malware concept) concealed as "Quellen-TKÜ" that go much further than to just observe and intercept internet based telecommunication, and thus violates the terms set by the constitutional court. The trojan can, for example, receive uploads of arbitrary programs from the Internet and execute them remotely. This means, an "upgrade path" from Quellen-TKÜ to the full Bundestrojaner's functionality is built-in right from the start. Activation of the computer's hardware like microphone or camera can be used for room surveillance. 

[...] The government malware can, unchecked by a judge, load extensions by remote control, to use the trojan for other functions, including but not limited to eavesdropping. This complete control over the infected PC – owing to the poor craftsmanship that went into this trojan – is open not just to the agency that put it there, but to everyone. It could even be used to upload falsified "evidence" against the PC's owner, or to delete files, which puts the whole rationale for this method of investigation into question.

Responding on the issue, the Bavarian Interior Minister declared in a press release: "According to the 2008 decision of the Federal Constitutional Court on online search, a Quellen-TKÜ ( "source wiretapping") is permitted if the surveillance is restricted solely to data from an ongoing telecommunication process and this is has to be enforced by technical and legal requirements. Nothing else has been practiced in Bavaria before".
The press release also says that it could not be confirmed whether CCC analyzed a test version from the development phase or the latest version of the software.

Techzine ZDnet notes that this is not the first time that a government has been accused of using sofware to spy on citizens. But, if the wiretapping abuse was confirmed, this will certainly have even more impact considering that the German government has always been on the forefront when it comes to protecting its citizens' privacy.

While pushing for a significant increase of security controls, the CCC group strongly argues that a new definition of privacy is now much needed:

The legislator should put an end to the ever growing expansion of computer spying that has been getting out of hand in recent years, and finally come up with an unambiguous definition for the digital privacy sphere and with a way to protect it effectively. Unfortunately, for too long the legislator has been guided by demands for technical surveillance, not by values like freedom or the question of how to protect our values in a digital world. It is now obvious that he is no longer able to oversee the technology, let alone control it.

Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.

GO

wednesday >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.

GO

The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.

GO

tuesday >

Weekly Readings: What the Govt Wants to Know

A roundup of interesting reads and stories from around the web. GO

Russia to Treat Bloggers Like Mass Media Because "the F*cking Journalists Won't Stop Writing"

The worldwide debate over who is and who isn't a journalist has raged since digital media made it much easier for citizen journalists and other “amateurs” to compete with the big guys. In the United States, journalists are entitled to certain protections under the law, such as the right to confidential sources. As such, many argue that blogging should qualify as journalism because independent writers deserve the same legal protections as corporate employees. In Russia, however, earning a place equal to mass media means additional regulations and obligations, which some say will lead to the repression of free speech.

GO

Politics for People: Demanding Transparent and Ethical Lobbying in the EU

Today the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) launched a campaign called Politics for People that asks candidates for the European Parliament to pledge to stand up to secretive industry lobbyists and to advocate for transparency. The Politics for People website connects voters with information about their MEP candidates and encourages them to reach out on Facebook, Twitter or by email to ask them to sign the pledge.

GO

monday >

Security Agencies Given Full Access to Telecom Data Even Though "All Lebanese Can Not Be Suspects"

In late March, Lebanese government ministers granted security agencies unrestricted access to telecommunications data in spite of some ministers objections that it violates privacy rights. Global Voices reports that the policy violates Lebanon's existing surveillance and privacy law, Law 140, but has gotten little coverage from the country's mainstream media.

GO

friday >

In Google Hangout, NYC Mayor de Blasio Talks Tech and Outer Borough Potential

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio followed the lead of President Obama and New York City Council member Ben Kallos Friday by participating in a Google Hangout to help mark his first 100 days in office, in which the conversation focused on expanding access to technology opportunities through education and ensuring that the needs of the so-called "outer boroughs" aren't overlooked. GO

More