Deutsche Telekom under investigation for spying on its employees

By EDRi · June 4, 2008

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)

The giant German telecommunication company is under investigation by
national prosecutors for a presumed breach of privacy, after having spied on
the phone calls of its managers, journalists and even board members.

According to Der Spiegel newspaper, the former monopoly incumbent operator –
still 31.7% owned by the German government – illegally monitored the phone
calls of parts of its staff during 2005-2006 when the company was laying off
workers. It seems the company hired an outside agency to monitor contacts
between members of its supervisory board and journalists.

The company has partially admitted the allegations saying the monitoring was
carried out to find out who was leaking information to the press. Rene
Obermann, the chief executive of the group, stated the company had not been
aware of the issue and that the illegal actions were taken by
the security department of the company, which has been dissolved in the
meantime. “I am shaken to the core by these allegations. We take the
situation most seriously. We have called in the public prosecutor’s office
and will support them in their full investigation of these allegations” he

The company also claimed that the calls were not listened to, and that the
investigation was just trying to establish the date, the duration of the
calls and what phone numbers board members had called. “The allegations made
against the company do not relate to any unlawful use of the content of
calls – in other words they do not concern the tapping of calls.(…) Call
records are details of the time, duration and participants of calls” was the
company’s statement.

Legal expert Thomas Hoeren said that in Germany there had been more and more
cases of companies watching their employees, which is not an issue as
actually this is allowed by the law. However, Deutsche Telekom broke more
than privacy laws by collecting all the telephone data from their CEOs and
the people supervising the company which is not only a violation of data
protection or privacy regulations but also a violation of telecommunications
secrecy, which is protected under criminal law. If a company allows its
employees to use the telephones in their offices for private use, as was
Deutsche Telekom’s case, they are no longer considered as employees but also
as private persons. So, the company was not allowed to monitor its
employees’ telephone connections. Hoeren also stated there was no
justification for a company to violate telecommunications secrecy and he
also considered there was an implicit violation of press freedom.

“The interesting problem in this case is that state attorneys are now
investigating what happened at Deutsche Telekom, but this can only lead to a
punishment for individuals acting as representatives of Deutsche Telekom.
The company as such is out of bounds. What people now want are increased
sanctions against the company, not just against the individuals behind the
company. In the current situation, Deutsche Telekom can only get a fine of
perhaps 25,000 euros, which is nothing for them” said the expert.

Prosecutors are examining now whether or not to open a case of violation of
data protection laws against Deutsche Telekom.

Prosecutors investigate Deutsche Telekom over data misuse (29.05.2008)

Prosecutors probe Deutsche Telekom on data misuse (29.05.2008)

Prosecutors probe Deutsche Telekom (29.05.2008)

Telekom Breaks More than Privacy Laws in Criminal Spy Case (27.05.2008),2144,3363041,00.html