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Germany: Email Monitoring #Bomb(e) Drops

On Saturday morning, February 25, 2012, the story [de] broke that in 2010, German intelligence had heavily monitored email communication in the country. More than 37 million emails containing particular search terms related to terrorism, smuggling and proliferation were reported to have been filtered out and examined.

Of the approximately 2,000 search terms, there was one singled out by media and Internet users that prompted not only outrage, but also many a creative word play: “bomb.”

Journalist Richard Gutjahr argues that the intelligence agencies concerned went too far and points out the results of the surveillance of email communication in his blog [de]:

Respekt: Unter den 37 Millionen abgefangenen Mails 2010 waren immerhin 213 Personen, die bei ihrer Steuererklärung gemogelt, Marihuana geraucht oder ihre Strafzettel nicht bezahlt haben. Soll noch einer sagen, Rasterfahndung liefere keine Ergebnisse.

Respect: Among the 37 million intercepted emails in 2010 there were 213 people who cheated on their tax returns, smoked marijuana or didn't pay their traffic ticket. Never let it be said that computer surveillance yields no results.

Markus Beckedahl of the blog Netzpolitik marvels [de] at so many users’ surprise:

Geschockt und überrascht? Verschlüsselte Kommunikation via Mail und Jabber sichern die eigene Privatsphäre besser.

Shocked and surprised? Encrypted communication via email and Jabber [open source instant messengering software] better secure one's own private sphere.

The hashtag #bombe was trending in Germany by Saturday afternoon. Following are a few reactions by Twitter users shortly after the story broke.

@ploechinger writes [de]:

@cjakubetz @videopunk @heiko Das ist ja heute Morgen schon eine #Bombe-nstimmung!

@cjakubetz @videopunk @heiko This morning is just the #bombe!

@HausOhneFenster jokes [de]:

Manchmal schreibe ich in meine Emails absichtlich Wörter wie Bombe, Rakete und Terror, damit wenigstens der Verfassungsschutz sie liest.

Sometimes I write words like bomb, missile and terror, just so that at least the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution will read it.

@irm_tw comments [de]:

#bombe trendet auf Platz 1. BND und MAD ratlos. Beantragen Budget für neue Technik, um auch noch sämliche tweets durchsuchen zu können.

#bombe trending in first place. BND [Federal Foreign Intelligence Agency] and MAD [Federal Military Counterintelligence Service] dumbstruck. Requesting a budget for new technology so they can search through all tweets too.
Wingdings Bomb (Picture by Twitter user @Olaf_HB on Twitpic)

Wingdings Bomb (Picture by Twitter user @Olaf_HB on Twitpic)

Twitterer @Olaf_HB posts [de] a photo:

die tägliche #BOMBE ! / the daily #BOMB ! *hehehe* ;-) @lieselm twitpic.com/8pcndw

the daily #BOMBE ! *hehehe* ;-) @lieselm twitpic.com/8pcndw

@linksgruen asks [de]:

@netzpolitik Hui, da darf man wohl das Wort Sex-Bombe nicht mehr benutzen?

@netzpolitik Whoa, does that mean you can't use the word sex bomb anymore?

@PatrickLobacher doubts [de] the usefulness of this approach:

Sehr schön Herr Geheimdienst: Denke auch, dass Gangster über das schreiben, was sie konkret vorhaben – bestimmt! http://bit.ly/ySZ5dj #bombe

Very nice, Mr. Intelligence Agency: I totally think gangsters write about exactly what they plan to do too- definitely! http://bit.ly/ySZ5dj #bombe

@kischtrine is amazed [de] at the amount of resources put into this initiative:

Wieviele Geheimdienstler wohl wie lange damit verbracht haben diese Mails zu lesen? Wie bei der Stasi damals für nix. Was das kostet #Bombe

How many intelligence agents have spent how long reading these emails? Just like the Stasi back then, for nothing. What that must cost #Bombe

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