Politicians Reacted Shocked When Being Monitored, Called for Laws Against Surveillance.

In Germany journalists uncovered that the browser add-on Web of Trust (WOT) saves users' surf history to sell this data. While the company claims that the data being sold is anonymized, the journalists were able to identify several users, among those journalists, judges, policemen and politicians of the German government.

The politicians reacted shocked when they were confronted with the findings from the journalists. The data contained all websites people visited, for instance traveling information or porn websites. In one case the journalists could even access banking details and a copy of an identification card all stored in an unencrypted online storage service.

This opens the door for blackmail and identity theft

The German politician Valerie Wilms (member of the Bundestag) was shocked when confronted with the data. It contained information such as journey routes, tax data as well as ideas about her political work. The politician said that this kind of data “can be very harmful. It can open the door for blackmail”. She would feel “naked”. Other politicians called for laws against such data mining if the companies mining the data could not be trusted.

How does it work?

The journalists explained that the data they received contained information collected by the browser plugin Web of Trust. This plugin verifies that each website a person is visiting can be trusted. For doing so the plugin sends information about every visited website to their server. This data is stored and a profile of the user is being created.

While the company claims that it only sells the data in an anonymized form, the journalists said it was rather easy to figure out who the person in question was. For instance, the data contained information such as email addresses or login names that made it easy to conclude the user's name.

Mass surveillance should be illegal.

The politicians reacted shocked when they were confronted with the data that showed what websites they were visiting. Their statements proved one thing: The politicians being monitored did not feel secure. And they all agreed on one thing: That such a surveillance should be illegal.

We at Tutanota agree completely. This is why we encrypt all user data end-to-end. We want to thank the investigative journalists at NDR for their great research. We hope that journalists - and politicians! - will more and more understand what the consequences of all-round surveillance are.

Whenever there is surveillance the data can - and will - find its way into the wrong hands. We have to stop any form of monitoring in the first place.

We can win the battle for privacy.

When politicians start fighting along with us, we can win this battle and take back what belongs to us: Our personal data. Because no one is allowed to accumulate our data and sell it.

As for now we can be smarter than the data miners when using the internet:

  • Encrypt as much information as possible.

  • Use only very few browser plugins and make sure they do not collect your data.

  • Use Tor to encrypt your online traffic.

  • Use privacy-friendly services such as your secure mail service that do not collect and sell you data.

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