Surveillance States: Germany Wants Tech Companies to Be Legally Required to Offer Backdoor Access


Following demands by the United States and the British government, Germany too now wants to have backdoor access to tech products. The local news outlet, RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland (RND), reported that officials are going to submit a proposed law for debate this week that could potentially force tech and auto companies to provide intelligence agencies with access to their products and services.

Thomas de Maizière, Germany's Interior Minister, has reportedly drafted a proposal called "the legal duty for third parties to allow for secret surveillance." Citing the difficulty that the law enforcement agents are experiencing while investigating crimes, Maizière wants to "dramatically extend” the country's powers to spy on its own citizens on the name of national security.

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The Minister is worried as investigators are unable to have warrantless searches since smart devices alert their owners before officers could get access to their devices. The Local reported Maizière saying that the "modern locking systems on cars are so intelligent that they even warn a driver if their car is shaken a little bit." He wants to force companies to not send out these alerts or enable agencies to intercept these warnings and stop them from reaching suspects.

The proposal is receiving fierce backlash from privacy and security advocates in the country. "The Interior Minister's plans sounds like an Orwellian nightmare," Konstantin von Notz, deputy faction leader of the Green Party, said. "Soon all flats in Germany will be equipped with devices which are potential wiretaps."

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Similar to United States where intelligence officials hack millions of systems regardless of their origin, Germany also wants to get official powers that would enable authorities to hack or have access to remote computers. Maizière believes this is important to "shut down private computers in the event of a crisis."

However, this kind of "legal access" could also be used to intercept any and all traffic effectively turning Germany into a surveillance state that will have snooping powers equal to the NSA in the US and the GCHQ in the UK - and all of that legally. German authorities, however, believe that officials won't be able to abuse these powers because they will be required to obtain a court order. Intelligence agencies and governments have continued to miss the point that having a backdoor weakens user security and actually helps criminals who could potentially use those same backdoors to bypass authorities or expand their crime-kits.

“We need to think really hard about the fact that we are a country with two dictatorships in its recent history," Konstantin von Notz said. "Do we want to live in a land where there is no privacy and where the state can interfere wherever it is technologically possible?"