Should We Follow German Journos’ Lead?

In a context where America’s spying devices are making President Obama’s relationship with a wide range of governments around the world increasingly uncomfortable, the union representing German journalists advised its members to stop using Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Yahoo! Inc (NASDAQ:YHOO).

Barack Obama serious

It had been hardly more than a week since several sources published that Angela Merkel’s phone was being tapped by the U.S. government, when a report denounced an intervention of both companies’ web traffic by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain’s GCHQ. We can now be certain that the growing tension between Germany’s chancellor and President Obama won’t be disappearing soon. check out this fascinating video:

Who and Why?

It is the German Federation of Journalists, which has about 38,000 members, which decided to make a statement on the matter. It announced that it would stop using both Google and Yahoo! research tools and e-mail services.  According to the federation, these tools are easily replaceable by others, that don’t affect the privacy of their users. “The searches made by journalists are just as confidential as the contact details of their sources and the contents of their communication with them,” said Michael Konken, head of the union.

Respect for privacy seems to be a particularly sensitive issue in the country, where memories of Eastern Germany’s secret police, the Stasi, are still pretty fresh. Don’t know much about this? Check out the movie The Lives of Others.

International Tensions

Hero of the hour for some, a traitor for others, Edward Snowden has raised a good number of international tensions that the U.S. government doesn’t seem to be handling that easily. While Obama’s denials on the German Chancellor Merkel issue have failed to convince the German government, new evidence of NSA spying activity keeps coming up. With these latest accusations, even U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry admitted that in some cases, spying might have gone a bit far. A little more than this acknowledgment will be necessary, however, to leave these tensions behind.

An Uphill Battle?

For many of us, staying away from Google and Yahoo! can be difficult, considering both companies’ increasingly wide (and useful) range of tools available.  Even if it is still the only solution when one seeks to keep activities absolutely confidential, the disadvantages of not using any of their services may be too big. One can ask, then, how long will this group be able to stand by their statements?

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