Berlin: Germany has demanded an explanation from the British government over reports that its intelligence agency had systematically snooped into Internet and telephone data of millions of users in the country by tapping transatlantic undersea cables.
Documents leaked by whistle-blower Edward Snowden, who exposed the secret surveillance programmes of the US National Security Agency (NSA), showed that Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) had very extensively collected communication data, including emails, telephone calls and exchanges over social networking sites to and from Germany.
According to the documents on the GCHQ`s secret surveillance programme codenamed "Tempora", which were first published by the Guardian last Friday, the agency tapped the fibre-optic cable TAT-14, which carries a major part of the transatlantic Internet and telephone traffic, the reports said.
TAT-14 links Germany with Internet servers in the United States and in Britain via the British city of Bude in Cornwall, where the GCHQ had copied the data, stored and analysed.
The snooping agency could have obtained data from Germany up to 240 gigabite per second during the 18 months "Tempora" has been operating, the reports said.
"The German government is taking the allegations quite seriously" and asked the British government to explain the dimension of the data interception and on what legal basis if was carried out, a government spokesman said in Berlin on Monday.
Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said personal data of millions of Internet users in Germany have been intercepted and it has no legal basis in this country.
"As a member of the European Union, EU data protection laws are applicable also to Britain," she said in a TV interview.
Several German parliamentarians sharply criticised the GCHQ tapping of the fibre-optic cables for data as a "breach of confidence" and demanded from the British government an explanation.