German ISPs Deutsche Telekom and United Internet have launched a new secure email service in what's thought to be a response to revelations surrounding the NSA and its PRISM programme.
Customers currently using Deutsche Telekom's email service T-Online or United Internet's GMX and Web.de services will have SSL encryption turned on by default, and data from messages sent between these three services will be processed and stored exclusively on servers in Germany.
According to the German incumbent Deutsche Telekom, the launch of the new service, dubbed "email made in Germany", is presumably in response to recent reports that the NSA has been intercepting global communications.
"Germans are deeply unsettled by the latest reports on the potential interception of communication data. Our initiative is designed to counteract this concern and make e-mail communication throughout Germany more secure in general," René Obermann, Deutsche Telekom's CEO, said in a statement.
Last month, a story by the German news magazine Der Spiegel reported that the NSA is collecting metadata from up to half a billion communications in Germany per month (including emails, text messages, and phone calls.)
The move to launch secure email may be largely symbolic, in that email sent to addresses on servers outside of the country may not be automatically encrypted, at least until 2014. Additionally, SSL, which is already offered by major email services like Google's Gmail and Microsoft's Hotmail, can be intercepted and decrypted without advanced technical means.
The two companies already offer another encyrpted email service, called de-mail, which takes security one step further by requiring users to link their email addresses with their real-world identities, usually by registering with their state-issued identification card. De-mail receives the same legal protection as paper mail sent through the post.
Together, Deutsche Telekom and United Internet's email services provide about two-thirds of the email addresses in the country.