Homeland Security

Germany wants carmakers to help them spy

German interior minister Thomas de Maiziere gets into a car
Where is de Maizière going? Source: DPA

Germany’s Interior Ministry wants to require carmakers to help spy on individuals suspected of criminal behavior. This is according to a draft resolution submitted by Thomas de Maizière to a conference of Germany’s interior ministers in Leipzig on Thursday.

Specifically, the government wants manufacturers to switch off a specific function in the car’s computer that alerts the owner via text message if the car is moved. Should investigating authorities want to install some kind of monitoring device in a suspect’s car, of course, the suspect would receive a text message telling them that somebody was moving their vehicle. According to Mr. de Maizière’s proposal, auto manufacturers would be required to switch off this mechanism.

The draft resolution has not been welcomed. “This opens the door for hackers,” Stephan Noller, vice president of the German Federal Association of the Digital Economy, warned on Wednesday. “If we integrate such options for access into all systems, it becomes a dangerous security risk for virtually every device. A system that has a digital master key can never be safe from hacker attacks.”

Achim Himmelreich, another vice president of the same organization, agrees. The proposed rule would set a legal precedent that impacts practically everything digital, he argued in a press release, including networked cars, tablets and smartphones as well as smart TVs and digital household appliances. Parts of the draft resolution use vague terms when it comes to technology, making it possible the legal measure could be used on many more consumer goods.

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