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Verizon Responds to German Spying Concerns

Verizon, which reportedly lost a contract for German services over allegations of US government spying, responded to those concerns Thursday. "Verizon Germany is a German company and we comply with German law," Detlef Eppig, managing director of Verizon Germany, said in a terse response.

Germany said this week that it is canceling its contract with Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), following Edward Snowden's NSA spying allegations. Germany severed the Verizon contract as part of an overhaul of the government's communications infrastructure. Germany says it's giving the work to Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT). (See Verizon's German Deal Could Be Just the First to Fall.)

Eppig said in his response emailed to reporters:

That blog post, "Thoughts on Foreign Data Storage and the Patriot Act," is dated Jan. 27 and says Verizon received no demands for data stored in other countries last year. It goes on to say: "Our view on the matter is simple: the U.S. government cannot compel us to produce our customers' data stored in data centers outside the U.S., and if it attempts to do so, we would challenge that attempt in court."

Even though Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act "allows a court to issue an order requiring a company operating in the U.S. to produce certain business records, it does not give the U.S. government the power to act outside the U.S.," the blog states. "More importantly, Section 215 does not grant the U.S. government access to customer data stored in the cloud; it only applies to business records of the cloud provider itself. So the U.S. government cannot use Section 215 to compel a company to produce customer data stored in data centers outside the U.S." (emphasis in original).

Search warrants and subpoenas can't be enforced outside the US, and Section 702 of the USA Patriot Act doesn't let the US government compel a US company to produce customer data stored in a data center outside the US, because the US company doesn't have "possession, custody or control of that data," the blog said. "For all these reasons, we do not believe the U.S. government may lawfully demand that Verizon turn over customer data stored in data centers outside the U.S., and if it were to do so, we would oppose the request in court."

The US government can use the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty process to request help from local, in-country law enforcement agencies, Verizon says.

The company seems to be trying to say it's not cooperating with US attempts to spy on Germany -- without actually saying so. It does not explicitly say it hasn't given the US access to German data. And the company did not respond to our other questions:

  • Has Verizon lost this contract? What is its value?
  • How long has Verizon been serving the German government?
  • What does Verizon's involvement entail? What services does it provide?
  • Have any other governments or organizations expressed concern? Are any other contracts at risk?

If you have any inside information on what's going on here, leave a comment below or email me directly at [email protected].

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to [email protected]

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