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Germany

Deutsche Bahn Under Fire for Vetting Practices

German national rail operator Deutsche Bahn admitted Wednesday that it had vetted more than 1,000 of its senior managers in a corruption probe, but denied spying on them.

The logo of the German Railway (Deutsche Bahn) is seen at left at the building of the Deutsche Bahn headquarters in Berlin

Deutsche Bahn denies spying on senior managers

A spokesman for the rail network said it had failed to inform the executives of the probe after the results were known, prompting criticism from Berlin's data protection watchdog.

Deutsche Bahn was responding to an article in Stern magazine which said the surveillance was conducted by Network Deutschland - the same company used by Deutsche Telekom to secretly monitor its workers.

The spokesman accused the magazine of rehashing an old story that was based on information which he said Deutsche Bahn had already made public in June 2008.

"There have been no new cases since then," spokesman Wolfgang Schaupensteiner said.

The magazine report referred to two major surveillance operations conducted in 2002 and 2003 in which executives and their wives were vetted for possible external business activities or links to suppliers.

Personal details of employees examined

Schaupensteiner admitted that the rail operator had compared addresses, telephone numbers and bank data of the executives and their spouses with those of Deutsche Bahn suppliers.

He said this was "a legitimate and necessary action in order to track down a potential conflict of interests," adding it was not uncommon in major concerns for employees to set up their own companies and then "place orders with themselves."

Berlin's deputy representative for data protection, Thomas Petri, criticized Deutsche Bahn for the way it conducted the probe and its failure to inform those employees who had done nothing wrong.

Petri said the rail operator faced censure and a possible fine if it transpired that its actions violated data protection regulations.

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