The US has committed to enter into a no-spying agreement with Germany in the wake of disclosures about the US National Security Agency's secret surveillance programmes.
The verbal commitment was given in talks with the German Federal Intelligence Service (Bundesnachrichtendienst, BND), the sole foreign intelligence service of Germany, the German government said. This means that there must be no governmental or industrial espionage between the two countries, it said.
More common standards for the cooperation of EU intelligence services are in progress, the German government added. No further details about the agreement were given.
The no-spying agreement talks were announced as part of a progress report on an eight-point programme proposed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in July with measures to better protect the privacy of German citizens. The plan was drafted "due to the current discussions about the work of the intelligence services," the German government said.
In the progress report, the German government found that US intelligence services comply with German law. Also, the operators of large German internet exchanges and the federal government did not find any evidence that the US spies on Germans, the government said.
However, NSA spying revelations should lead to an acceleration of data protection agreement negotiations between the EU and the US, Merkel said last night.
This might be hard to do though. Different EU countries have different ideas about such a policy, she said. This also makes it difficult to come to a data protection agreement with the US.
A European Data Protection Directive should, for instance, require "that internet companies that operate in Europe tell us if they provide information to other governments," Merkel said. But so far, there has been no consensus about this German plan in Europe, although France has already joined the German camp, she said.
It is also important to strengthen the European IT industry, Merkel said. Large data nodes now are solely made with equipment from Chinese and US manufacturers, Merkel said, adding that she doubted that was a good idea. Therefore, along with the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, Merkel is looking for European partners so the EU can catch up technologically and be capable of independent action again, she said.
Despite the criticism of government surveillance programmes, Merkel said people should not forget that intelligence agencies do important work to protect people in Germany as well as abroad. German information, for instance, can prevent attacks on US soldiers in Afghanistan, while American data in turn can be used to protect the lives of German soldiers, she said.