Germany considers low-tech typewriters to counter high-tech spying

Close-up of vintage typewriter keys (Thinkstock).
Close-up of vintage typewriter keys (Thinkstock).

Sometimes low-tech is the answer to high-tech problems.

The German government is considering the use of manual typewriters for sensitive documents as a way to counter spying, the Guardian reports.

During an interview with the "Morgenmagazin" TV program, Patrick Sensburg, head of the German legislature's inquiry into allegations of NSA spying on German officials, said he and and others were considering using old-fashioned typewriters for highly sensitive documents.

A joke? Apparently not. Sensburg said he was serious and didn't even want to use electric typewriters. One espionage revelation has followed another in Germany, resulting in the CIA's station chief there being sent home and, Sensburg said, an indication that a change is needed in intelligence operations.

Russia is allegedly using a similar strategy in the wake of the Edward Snowden leaks, reportedly purchasing special typewriters with individual typing patterns that allow documents to be traced to the machine of origin.

Whether or not such a strategy makes sense is something we'll leave to the James Bonds of the world. But it does raise questions about what technologies we might (or might not) be willing to purge ourselves of in order to regain a bit of privacy.

Cellphones — obviously, they'd have to go. Ditto for GPS devices; nobody needs to know what route we take to Target. Adios to web-connected TVs; welcome back, rabbit ears.  And VCRs would have to be called out of retirement, because DVRs just know too much.

Follow Mike Krumboltz on Twitter (@mikekrumboltz).