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German government ends contract with Verizon following NSA revelations

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Revelations of widespread National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance that first surfaced last year have led to the German government ending its contract with Verizon, it’s been revealed.

Concerned over network security following news last year suggesting German leader Angela Merkel had had her phone tapped by the NSA, the government said it will transfer all its telecom and Internet-related services to German firm Deutsche Telekom next year, when the current contract with Verizon ends. The US wireless giant started providing communication services between German ministries in 2010.

The move by the German government was widely reported on Thursday, with the Wall Street Journal describing it as “one of the most concrete signs yet that disclosures about US spying were hurting American technology companies overseas.”

Documents leaked by American whistleblower Edward Snowden suggested that as many as 122 world leaders were targeted for surveillance by the NSA, with German leader Angela Merkel among them.

Reports in the German press last year claimed that the NSA had been listening in on phone conversations of Angela Merkel since 2002, three years before she became the German leader, with the monitoring only ending in June last year. German prosecutors earlier this month launched an official investigation into the affair. 

Germany’s decision to end its contract with Verizon comes despite President Obama’s personal assurances to Merkel in October last year that whatever had happened in the past, her phone conversations were not being monitored and would not be monitored in the future, either.

Commenting on the move, German Interior Ministry spokesman Tobias Plate said, “There are indications that Verizon is legally required to provide certain things to the NSA, and that’s one of the reasons the cooperation with Verizon won’t continue”.

He added, “Furthermore, the ties revealed between foreign intelligence agencies and firms in the wake of the US NSA affair show that the German government needs a very high level of security for its critical networks.”

While Verizon has never been linked directly to Merkel’s phone monitoring, a Guardian report last year claimed leaked documents showed the NSA was, under a top secret court order, collecting phone records of millions of US-based Verizon customers on a daily basis, a matter that will have undermined German officials’ confidence in the use of overseas tech firms and likely contributed to its decision this week to dispense with Verizon’s services.

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