German Cabinet plans to give intel agencies access to messenger apps


The German government plans to give intelligence agencies in the country the power to read encrypted chats on messenger apps such as WhatsApp. — AFP

The German government plans to give intelligence agencies in the country the power to read encrypted chats on messenger apps such as WhatsApp, following an agreement by Cabinet ministers on Oct 21.

This would apply to the BND foreign intelligence agency, the Verfassungsschutz domestic intelligence agency and the Military Counterintelligence Service (MAD).

They would however have to obtain a fiat for each individual case, meaning the intelligence officers couldn't snoop on such chats at their own discretion.

In order to ensure oversight of the new surveillance powers, the government plans to increase staffing on the parliamentary commission that would grant such permits and provide it with a technical advisor.

The legislation is yet to be approved by the Bundestag parliament, where the coalition parties – Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives (CDU/CSU) and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) – have a majority.

Proponents of the extended powers say that they merely give intelligence agencies back the ability they once had to monitor conversations, when they listened in on phone calls before the invention of the Internet and smartphones.

But the proposal has been controversial, even within the governing coalition. A previous draft had foreseen much broader powers allowing secret services to covertly access data on computers, smartphones and other IT devices. This was struck from the bill under pressure from the SPD. – dpa

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