Due to a scandal over U.S. government spying that reached worldwide media coverage, Germany's lower house of parliament has joined the government in cutting all ties with Verizon Communications Inc. According to Reuters, the Bundestag lower house of parliament plans to end its contract with Verizon "as soon as possible," a government spokesperson told reporters on Friday. It had been due to run until the end of the year, but the German government wants out now.
According to U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who received a lot of media and government attention when he released private government information to the public, Washington conducted mass surveillance in Germany and even eavesdropped on Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone. Needless to say, Germany was not happy about the findings. The German ministry noted:
"The relationships between foreign intelligence agencies and companies revealed in the course of the NSA affair show that especially high demands must be made of federal government communications infrastructure that is critical for security."
German officials note that Germany does not and will not use anymore U.S. companies for IT-related items due to the uncovering of U.S. spying activities. Germany started an overhaul of their security measures when Snowden released information about the Merkel spying. The removal of Verizon Germany as a provider is the first step in these new initiatives for German security.
The Wall Street Journal says that Germany will phase out Verizon's existing business providing communications services to government agencies fully by 2015. However, Verizon said the measures are uncalled for, noting Verizon's German subsidiary complied with German law, and that the U.S. government didn't have access to customer data stored outside the U.S., but it appears the German government is not willing to take any chances.
It isn't just the German government that has taken issue with the spying operations. In fact, U.S. citizens are up in arm with Verizon demanding change after Snowden released documents showing that millions of Americans had been duped as well. Records released by Snowden showed Verizon had handed over millions of customer phone records to U.S. government officials under a secret court order.
Many different U.S. tech companies are taking a hit after the Snowden release. People are having a hard time trusting the U.S. government with their known spying activities. Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith said last week to The Wall Street Journal that the business troubles stemming from the Snowden leaks were "getting worse, not better." Cisco also noted a large decline in sales overseas in China after the disclosure.
Some companies, such as Microsoft, are taking matters into their own hands to ensure their overseas clients feel safe. Microsoft said it would open a "transparency center" in Brussels where foreign government customers could check software code for security holes that, in theory, U.S. spies could exploit.
[Image Credit: Mashable]