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Germany wants to keep data away from American snoops

First Published      Last Updated Feb 16 2014 11:08 pm

Berlin • German Chancellor Angela Merkel has embraced proposals to create European data networks that would keep emails and other communications on the European side of the Atlantic, farther from prying American eyes, and she said she would raise the matter this week with President François Hollande of France.

"We will, above all, discuss which European providers we have who offer security for our citizens," Merkel said Saturday in her weekly podcast. "So that you don't have to go across the Atlantic with emails and other things but can build up communications networks also within Europe."

The two leaders are to meet Wednesday in Paris, where Merkel will also speak on unspecified economic matters, her spokesman said.

German companies like Deutsche Telekom have already aired the possibility of creating such networks as a way to allay public fears about data sent over the Internet being scanned and collected by the National Security Agency (NSA) when it passes through servers in the U.S. or those belonging to U.S. companies.

But this was the first time that Merkel had publicly embraced the proposal. The chancellor, who was raised in Communist East Germany where the government regularly spied on its citizens, publicly vented at being monitored when it was discovered last fall that her cellphone had most likely been tapped by the NSA.

The affair, brought to light when former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked agency documents, continues to rile the political and media elite, which are stunned that the Americans, who taught post-Nazi Germans the meaning of privacy and freedom of the individual, are collecting private data on such a scale.

President Barack Obama has promised Merkel that her phone is no longer monitored. But a German newspaper revealed recently that the phone of her predecessor, Gerhard Schröder, apparently was monitored in 2002 when he opposed the Bush administration's plans to go to war in Iraq.

For all the fury in Germany since it emerged that French intelligence was also collecting communications and online data — a tool in fighting terrorism — the French reaction to the NSA has been more equivocal. In Washington last week, Obama and Hollande suggested at a news conference that any French-American rancor on the subject had dissipated.