Harry de Quetteville – “Germany outraged by data theft scandal”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/2591783/Germany-outraged-by-data-theft-scandal.html

Germany outraged by data theft scandal
German politicians are being urged to tighten data protection laws after a state privacy watchdog said information on the entire German population was available and being traded online.

Harry de Quetteville | August 20, 2008

Thilo Weichert, data commissioner from the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, also said that bank account details of up to 20 million people were also being bought and sold illegally.

His comments have added to a rapidly widening scandal that began last week in Schleswig-Holstein, when a compact disc of data arrived at the state’s consumer protection agency.

On examining the disc, the agency discovered addresses and bank details on 17,000 individuals, which had been copied by a whistle-blower at a call centre where they were being used.

Detlef Tiegel, the whistleblower, said he had spent three week at the call centre, and that it was just a tiny selection of the data he had amassed.

“In fact, I saved the addresses and banking information of 1.5 million clients,” he said.

German prosecutors are now investigating after some of those featuring on the CD claim to have had money removed from their accounts without their permission.

According Germany’s federation of consumer agencies, the data often originates with companies running lotteries, but added that details were also harvested from mobile phone contracts.

The federation made a shock announcement this week that it had acquired bank details of more than four million people for the sum of just £500.

“It was no big deal,” getting hold of the data, according to the federation’s chairman, Gerd Billen.

While it was keen to acquire the data to highlight the growing trade in personal information, unscrupulous businesses can use it to make a profit.

One data scam is allegedly run by companies suspected of acquiring bank details, then calling account holders to sell them items. Even if the person called refuses to buy, the company, already in possession of the account information, makes a charge, and can then insist that their target had agreed to the transaction during the telephone call.

Such is the scale of the scandal in Germany, where systematic snooping under authoritarian Nazi and East German regimes means personal privacy is taken extremely seriously, that politicians are being urged to tighten data protection laws.

Arguments of how far the state should be allowed to probe private information flared again last year when German interior minister Wolfgang Schaeuble demanded laws be relaxed to aid anti-terror investigations.

Now however, German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries has said that the privacy laws would be examined and there would a “serious investigation” into whether changes were needed.

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Published in: on August 20, 2008 at 9:27 PM  Leave a Comment  

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