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Deutsche Telecom caught doing an HP

Board spying busted

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Deutsche Telecom has been caught snooping on its board directors and journalists in an apparent effort to stop directors talking to the press.

The telco ran at least two snooping schemes, one targeting journalists and one aimed at the company's own directors and senior executives. They went so far as to have a mole working within the office of one of the journalists on its hit list who reported back to DT's security department, and the company gave executives false information in briefing documents in order to see who was leaking to the press.

Deutsche Telecom was even spying on one of its major US shareholders in New York. The company used its own internal security department as well as hiring an external detective agency. The scheme sounds very similar to HP's snooping scheme which spied on board directors, journalists and their families.

Details of the spying between 2005 and 2006 have now been sent to Germany's public prosecutor, who is deciding whether criminal charges are justified.

The snooping schemes, dubbed "Operation Clipper" and "Operation Rheingold", checked communications data - when and to who calls were made - rather than actually listening to conversations.

Deutsche Telecom's chief exec Rene Obermann, who was not in charge at the time of the alleged spying, said he had reported the matter to prosecutors two weeks ago and had hired a law firm to investigate the claims. He said there would be serious consequences if the allegations were proved.

Even if criminal charges are not brought against Deutsche Telecom, it will have a tough time regaining the trust of customers.

In March German supermarket Lidl was forced to deny it used hidden cameras to spy on its staff and listen to their conversations. ®

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