2008/06/05

Secrecy of telecommunications and cameras at work

Germany had two successive scandals of very large and well-known companies in the past weeks.

The first one was about a large food discounter chain that paid external detectives to spy with cameras on the own personnel at work. The minutes were apparently very accurate, including completely private matters.
the company had some other publicity problems in the past years and is said to have a poor working atmosphere anyway.

We've become accustomed to have secretaries of the interior (the recent one and the previous one, Schäuble and Schily) who want(ed) the executive to keep an uncomfortable close eye on us, but this corporate spying was kind of new.


The second scandal was one level bigger at least.
Germany privatized (partially only) the national phone infrastructure company several years ago. It's now just another multinational company and you can buy shares at the stock market (which was no good idea in the past years).
This phone company had repeated troubles with news leaks in its top ranks some years ago. The competence of the top management was apparently not good enough to fix that problem with smart measures, so they resorted to hire a detective company to analyse phone connections of the board of directors and executive board.
They didn't spy on lowly collectors - the top management apparently spied on itself!

This came on top of a series of scandals involving well-known board of directors and executive board members in other companies (like one who evaded taxes).
Now we've got a quite ruined trust in the 'elites' of our economic system just at the time of a discussion about whether rich and poor diverge or not (nobody seems to think that they might converge). This helps the left wing (socialist) party "Die Linke" which takes away voters from the traditional left wing (social democrats) party "SPD". The effect is that future coalitions will become even more complicated and probably include three parties as a rule because only one combination of two parties could have a majority (that's the present coalition, and it seems to have stopped work).

Let's go back to the 'freedom' aspect in this; corporates spying on citizens.

It turns out that the present legal situation is much better suited to provide protecting rights to citizens against the state than against corporations.
Corporations won't start a dictatorship, but we deserve protection against such unwarranted spying nevertheless, and it looks as if this requires some changes in our laws.

Did I mention that our government seems to have stopped work? They aren't united on much any more, and our (irony!!!) responsible secretary of the interior seems to be content with a telling-off. That's in part because the telecom company in question is still partially owned by the state directly and indirectly about 31%) and because the supposedly responsible managers have already left the company.

Sven Ortmann

2 comments:

  1. What's your opinion on the connections between corporate and governmental elites?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Politicians often join several boards of directors after their political career.
    Some even join executive committees of partially or fully state-controlled corporations.

    The problem about spying is that the changes creep forward, and too much different spying activities for the media to report about all.

    Both many politicians and many managers simply cannot resist to use data that they already have (in the case of Telecom, the companies are even OBLIGED to store some data).

    ReplyDelete

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