NSA leaks mean Germans no longer trust their own government's online services

In wake of the Snowden leaks, concerns about data security and privacy have risen sharply.
Written by Michael Filtz, Contributor

In Germany, concerns about data security have led some people to be increasingly sceptical of using online government services, according to recent research.

The study by the Institute for Public Information Management found that 67 percent of those surveyed in Germany said that "lack of data security" directly discouraged their use of e-government services, such as filing their tax returns online. This represents a sharp increase from last year, when only four percent of respondents in the country had the same concern.

The study’s authors cite an increasing awareness of NSA surveillance as a prime reason for the shift.

"Privacy scandals like the current NSA surveillance scandal, and the passing of user data from social networks and other online services have certainly contributed significantly to raising public awareness," the report said.

These concerns, combined with a general level of unhappiness over the services offered, have led to a drop in e-government usage in the country: 36 percent of those surveyed in Germany used said that they were using e-government services, down from 45 percent in last year's survey.

The report, which surveyed more than 6,000 people in six countries, found a varying rate of e-government usage across countries: about 24 percent were currently using egovernment services in the US, while 53 percent used them in Sweden.

Cornelia Rogall-Grothe, Germany's commissioner for information technology, said that the NSA leaks have fuelled privacy concerns among those who would use e-government services.

"The events surrounding the publications by Edward Snowden have created a sharp decline of trust in online services," she said.

"Therefore, cybersecurity and privacy measures in e-government will need to be significantly strengthened in order to recover lost ground."

However, it's not clear what Germany could do to effectively mitigate these concerns. Other privacy initiatives taken in the country in the past few years have presented their own range of security concerns, and in any case have not caught on with a majority of those surveyed in the recent study.

For example, only 27 percent of those surveyed had electronic ID cards, which store biometric data and can serve as electronic signatures for government documents.

Likewise, only 10 percent said that they had a 'De-Mail' account, a domestic email service that was introduced in 2009 and can be used to transmit legal documents over the internet.

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