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First Flickr… now Google’s Gmail has issues in Germany
Corsin tipped me off this morning to a story running in some of the German newspapers today about Google possibly yanking Gmail access from Germany due to some local law issues around a new law designed to protect against terrorists.
Philip at Google Blogoscoped describes the issue well:
According to this law, email services here will be forced to maintain personally identifiable records attached to email accounts. What exactly this might mean for Google I don’t know, but perhaps it would result in Gmail having to start requiring full addresses (and perhaps even having to verify an address by sending a snail mail to the user).
David at WebProNews notes that Google may just want to pack their bags, and take the ICE train east instead:
Google faces the prospect of having Germany challenge them to pull Gmail out of the country. How successfully that gambit will be depends on how much Google values its prospects in Germany. If they feel success China or Korea is within reach, Google could opt to focus on those markets and write off Germany as a loss.
Last week it was the Flickr censorship issue, now it's Google. Germany has tight laws and this may hinder companies from even wanting to do business there. But how hard is it to "appear" like you are from outside if you want to use a service bad enough.
And I believe that over the next few years, tougher data laws will come to most countries including the U.S.
Update: My friend Till sent over the following (he is a German citizen):
Since it's been mentioned here and since I think it probably hasn't been stated enough but Germany has no laws that require Flickr to censor Germans.
That is because Flickr is considered a hosting service in Germany, and not a forum. If Flickr was considered a forum different rules apply. For example the owner of a forum can be held responsible for its content even without prior notification.
But even for that there are regulations in the making which limit possible law suits here – the German law just has to fully understand "Internet mentality" before those are incorporate.
The regulations Google/Google Mail face are related to service providers who provide their services to more than 1,000 contracting parties. Note "contracting parties" – not necessarily email accounts.
This implies that operators of German email servers have the obligation to maintain a surveilance mechanism on the server in order to comply with the Telecommunication Surveillance Act, TKÜV, passed on 22nd January, 2002. Service providers have to implement this surveilance mechanism at their own cost.