Deutsche Telekom is seeking assistance from other German communications companies to shield local Internet traffic from foreign intelligence agencies. The push for cooperation to shield local traffic comes after evidence surfaced that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone had been monitored by a foreign intelligence agency. Many believe that the cooperative effort faces a significant uphill battle.
One problem with this plan is that it wouldn’t work if Germany users visited websites that were hosted on servers in other countries. That means any protection for local traffic would be futile if German users used sites such as Facebook or Google, which they are very likely do. Some telecom and Internet experts within Germany also believe that Deutsche Telekom have trouble getting rival broadband groups to participate as well.
Another fundamental problem with the plan is that it goes contrary to how the web works. Traffic from around the web passes from network to network with no considerations of national borders. There are a few countries that do exert control over the Internet and local traffic, but that’s typically limited to oppressive countries such as China and Iran where governments don’t want people to be able to freely access information.
Torsten Gerpott, a professor of business and telecoms at the University of Duisburg-Essen said:
It [Deutsche Telekom’s plan] is internationally without precedent that the internet traffic of a developed country bypasses the servers of another country. The push of Deutsche Telekom is laudable, but it’s also a public relations move.
The only way for this plan to work would be for Germany to require websites the hosted locally. That plan would likely be met with serious backlash from web companies that aren’t based within Germany. Germany isn’t alone in considering this sort of plan, Brazil is also pushing legislation that would force websites such as Google and Facebook to store locally gathered data inside the country.