Why No Spying on T-Mobile Customers?

A blog about business and economics.
June 10 2013 11:25 PM

Did German Law Somehow Protect T-Mobile Customers From NSA Snooping?

While I'm pondering European angles on the surveillance issue, here's an interesting thought. Before we were talking about PRISM we were talking about revelations of widespread National Security Agency collection of "metadata" from Verizon users about their calls. And it swiftly came out that "people familiar with the NSA's operations said the initiative also encompasses phone-call data from AT&T Inc. and Sprint Nextel Corp., records from Internet-service providers and purchase information from credit-card."

If the NSA's going to have a dragnet scooping up Verizon call data it's not surprising that AT&T and Sprint would be part of the program. What's more surprising in many ways is that the reporting available thus far doesn't indicate snooping on T-Mobile customers. Which naturally raises the question of why. Is Carly Foulkes just that charming? Or maybe the fact that T-Mobile is a relatively small slice of a larger German company, Telekom, somehow weighed on the American government in this regard. Germany is pretty much ground zero for European concern about data privacy, so it's possible that a German-owned firm would feel that it was running a much bigger risk by cooperating with this sort of effort than by stifling it.

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Of course it's hard to know. Absence of evidence of T-Mobile/NSA cooperation isn't the same as evidence of an absence of cooperation. But it is a noteworthy ommission.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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