The snooping scandal that has rocked Deutsche Telekom threatens to engulf another German concern. Railway company Deutsche Bahn reportedly employed the same firm that spied on journalists and executives for Telekom.
DB's the next German firm to get caught up in spying allegations
A spokesman for Deutsche Bahn (DB) confirmed that the firm had used the services of security consultants Network Deutschland, business daily Handelsblatt reported.
The managing director of Network Deutschland, Ralph Kuehn, last week admitted analyzing illegally acquired telephone data on behalf of Deutsche Telekom. The telecommunications giant has conceded spying on communications between executives and journalists in 2005 and possibly in 2006. Company CEO Rene Obermann, who denies any knowledge of the activities, has called in prosecutors to investigate the case.
Despite acknowledging the engagement of Network Deutschland by Deutsche Bahn, the DB spokesman stressed that there had been "no illicit surveillance of staff or non-staff." He said that external experts had worked on individual cases as part of the company's strict anti-corruption program.
Details remain sketchy
DB says Network Deutschland's work was entirely legal
But the DB spokesman refused to say why the company had chosen the Berlin-based firm, nor did he give further information about the duration, scale or nature of the contract.
According to one of Kuehn's subcontractors, the work carried out for the telecommunications giant Telekom and the state-owned railroad company was almost identical. "It centered around tracking telephone data, bank data and the complete screening of the people in question," the computer expert told Handelsblatt. He said that personal tax returns had also been acquired. The targets were railway staff and people with links to the company, according to the source.
This is not the first time this year that company ethics have been called into question in Germany. Germans were shocked earlier this year when discount supermarket chain Lidl admitted that it had used surveillance cameras to monitor its staff -- even to the point of checking how often they went to the bathroom and whether workers had personal relationships.
Germany is particularly sensitive about such infringements on civil liberties due to its past.