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Deutsche Telekom launches 'NSA-busting' encrypted email service

Small print: It only works between German email providers

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Deutsche Telekom and United Internet have launched a super-secure German email service that they claim defeats the data-sniffing shenanigans of the likes of the NSA.

The partners announced that they were starting an initiative for "secure email communication across Germany".

"Germans are deeply unsettled by the latest reports on the potential interception of communication data," René Obermann, CEO of Deutsche Telekom, said in a statement.

"Our initiative is designed to counteract this concern and make email communication throughout Germany more secure in general. Protection of the private sphere is a valuable commodity."

The head of United Internet, Ralph Dommermuth, added that the initiative, dubbed "Email made in Germany", would be open to other providers, as long as they "commit to the standards set out".

"Alongside email encryption and the designation of secure e-mail addresses, a third key element relates to data processing and archiving, which is carried out in Germany. This ensures that Germany's stringent data privacy laws are complied with," he said.

German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports (in English) that email traffic sent via the new system will “be encrypted while in transit between the sender and receiver”. Access to third parties “is to be granted only in compliance with German law”.

The new service appears to be a reaction to the revelations from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden that the US National Security Agency has been peeking at email, text and call data from around the world.

While encrypted email may sound like a great idea, it may not work with email sent outside of Germany and the EU. Indeed, Deutsche Welle's report confirms that the encryption will only apply to emails sent between German email providers T-Online, GMX and Web.de.

Emails sent to addresses on servers outside of the country will therefore be outside Germany's purview, and will not necessarily be automatically encrypted. ®

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