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German state police criticized for electronic snooping

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Michael Birnbaum,
Washington Post
October 17, 2011

BERLIN — The software is straight out of a spy thriller, a program that allows police investigators to monitor activity and, if the computer has a camera, peer right into the face of the user.

Revelations this week that several state police forces used the secret tools caused consternation at the highest levels of government in Germany, where a Nazi past and not-too-distant memories of the all-pervasive East German secret police have led to privacy laws that are among the strictest in the world.

Police departments have admitted using the powerful computer programs, which are called trojans, in a handful of cases around the country. In one case, police watched over a group of thieves peddling stolen merchandise. In another, they kept tabs on a suspected pharmaceuticals-smuggling ring.

Federal and state-level authorities are now investigating the use of the programs, and lawmakers are calling for more clearly defined boundaries for electronic snooping.

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This article was posted: Monday, October 17, 2011 at 3:43 am

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