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Germany

Deutsche Telekom to Tighten Up on Data Privacy

German telephone giant Deutsche Telekom said Friday it would tighten up data-privacy rules and appoint a seventh board member in charge of corporate compliance and legal issues.

Telekom chief executive Rene Obermann

Telekom CEO Obermann said his firm was taking serious steps to safeguard information

The company moved six days after the revelation that a telephone directory of 17 million customers had been obtained more than two years ago by a private company.

The directory, which Telekom maintains had been stolen, had contained the private numbers of high-profile politicians and celebrities, as well as customer mobile phone numbers, addresses, dates of birth and, in some cases, email addresses.

Bank information or credit card numbers were not accessed, said the Bonn-based firm.

In Germany, most wireless-line numbers are ex-directory and confidential.

Telekom chief executive Rene Obermann said at the company's head office in Bonn that in future, the company would voluntarily brief the public on a dedicated Web site about "critical data-privacy incidents" undergoing criminal investigation.

"In the race against data theft, we want to be at least one step ahead at all times," he said.

A seventh board department will be set up to deal with privacy and the company will issue data privacy reports every six months.

The former German telecommunications industry monopolizer is also to stop using an internet-style system where any computer can be used to query its databanks using the right password.

Employees and sales partners will only be able to access sensitive systems from specific computers.

Saturday's revelation was not Telekom's first brush with data scandals. Earlier this year, the firm admitted that calls between journalists and board members had been illegally monitored in 2005 and 2006.

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