Classified documents from Germany’s Ministry of Interior obtained by Netzpolitik.org reveal that the country’s federal police has purchased the controversial FinFisher spyware from the Eleman/Gamma Group.FinFisher is currently used by many governments around the world to spy on activists and to keep their citizens in line.
By turning to such software, Germany is basically joining the ranks of authoritarian regimes such as the ones from Qatar, Ethiopia, Mongolia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and many others.
On the other hand, this wouldn’t be the first time when German authorities used controversial spying software. Back in October 2011, the members of the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) found a poorly-programed Trojan which could have been utilized to take complete control of a computer.
In a 2008 ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany, authorities were told to use only surveillance software that would be technologically limited to a specific task.
After news about the spy Trojan broke out, the government established the Center of Competence for Information Technology Surveillance (CC ITÜ), in an effort to develop its own surveillance software.
In the document obtained by Netzpolitik.org – dated December 7 – the Federal Ministry of the Interior informs the Federal Parliament Bundestag that they will have their own software developed by 2014, but in the meantime, they will use commercial solutions.
However, the Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information and the Federal Office for Information Security haven’t been able to check the FinFisher code to see if it meets legal requirements.
They’ve tasked Computer Sciences Corp to review it, but the results of their investigation are not contained in the document.
“With the purchase of Gamma FinFisher, the Federal Criminal Police Office has chosen a vendor that has become a symbol for the use of surveillance technology in oppressive regimes worldwide,” CCC spokesperson Frank Rieger told Netzpolitik.org.
“FinFisher also consists of various components, which can be loaded when needed, thereby allowing the installation of spying capabilities that go far beyond the already questionable “wiretapping at the source“.