German government’s surveillance software unsettles a nation that prizes privacy


Germans take their privacy seriously and have a coined a term—gläserner Bürger, or “the glass citizen”—to describe a dystopic future in which Germans are surveilled around the clock. The news that that Bundeskriminalamt (BKA), Germany’s version of the FBI, is testing software by a controversial surveillance firm is sure to raise the glass slipper image yet again.

A leaked document (PDF in German) from the German ministry of the interior, which was published on Wednesday by, reveals that BKA has acquired software from Gamma Group for monitoring computer and internet use in “case it will be necessary to use.” BKA has also been working on its own surveillance software, which it expects to find in 2014, according to the doucment.

The document doesn’t say which Gamma product the agency has bought, but it is likely FinSpy, which was previously  tested in Germany in 2011.  BKA, which denied using the program, plans to surveil Skype and telephone conversations, e-mails, and chats of criminal suspects, according to the leaked document.

FinSpy is known for being used by regimes to spy on dissidents. Traces of FinSpy were discovered on computers of opposition members in Bahrain , and there were reports that Gamma offered FinSpy Ehud Mubarak’s regime in Egypt before it fell.  Gamma says it only sells its software to governments for criminal investigations.

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