Germany and the Love of Privacy

This unwillingness to discuss private time with colleagues reveals both the German distaste for small talk, but also the German desire for privacy.

Germans have a clear and robust sense of what should be in the public domain and what should not, and although there are exceptions for good friends, finding out what your colleagues get up to outside of work requires military grade interrogation techniques.

With waterboarding out of the question, I am left with little recourse other than to linguistically trap colleagues into giving away small details of their lives. The excruciating process of trial and error can last for years, until one day a colleague feels comfortable enough to actually tell you directly what they get up to when not at work.

Germans would pay more for their privacy than Americans

A study investigating how people in various countries value their private information has found that Facebook users from Germany would charge the social media platform the most for sharing their personal data.

The study, by US-based think-tank the Technology Policy Institute (TPI), is the first to attempt to quantify the value of online privacy and data. And for the study, it assessed how much privacy is worth in six countries by looking at the habits of people in the US, Germany, Mexico, Brazil, Columbia and Argentina.

It addresses the growing concern about how companies, from platforms such as Facebook to retailers, have been collecting and monetising personal data. Due to this, US regulators have imposed hefty fines on Facebook Inc and Alphabet-owned Google’s YouTube unit for privacy violations.

Against the German pettiness in data protection!

High time to start the argument for changes – the topic must not remain taboo.

Criticism of the US would be more credible if we, at least in Europe, had the same understanding of privacy and data protection. But that is by no means the case, as not only surveys show.

If all EU members had converted the 1995 data protection directive into national law in the same way and if all national supervisory authorities had interpreted the regulations in the same way, then most American “data octopuses” would hardly have settled in Ireland. 28 member states of the European Union, that also meant: 28 different views of data protection! So there was no question of Europe speaking with one voice to the US.

Germany is the first EU Member State to enact new Data Protection Act to align with the GDPR

On 5 July 2017, almost a year before the General Data Protection Regulation (EU/2016/679, the “GDPR”) will be applied, the new German Federal Data Protection Act (‘Bundesdatenschutzgesetz’) passed the final stage of the legislative process, the so-called German Data Protection Amendment Act (the “GDPAA”). It has been countersigned by the German Federal President and published in the Federal Law Gazette. 

The GDPAA will, with one exception outlined below, enter into force on 25 May 2018, and will substantially change the current German Federal Data Protection Act in order to align it to the GDPR, to make use of its derogations, and to implement the Law Enforcement Directive (EU/2016/680). 

Although the GDPR directly applies across the EU and its provisions prevail over national law, Member States retain the ability to introduce their own national legislation based on certain derogations provided for by the GDPR. These derogations include national security, prevention and detection of crime, and also apply in certain other important situations – the so-called ‘opening clauses’.

Police Have Too Much Access to People’s Data, German Court Rules

The Constitutional Court said that the current laws did not do enough to protect personal privacy in the digital realm.

July 2020. BERLIN — The German police and intelligence agencies have excessive access to citizens’ mobile and internet communications, the country’s Constitutional Court said on Friday, ordering the existing laws to be tightened.

It was the latest decision by the court to support personal privacy over public security concerns in the digital sphere, which, taken together, have made the country a world leader in protecting personal privacy.

Critics charge that the string of court decisions could hinder the ability of security services to prevent crimes and terrorist attacks.

German watchdog says Amazon cloud vulnerable to US snooping

US legislation means Washington could seek access to sensitive police data that Germany plans to store with Amazon Web Services.

April, 2019. BERLIN — Amazon’s cloud hosting services are not suitable for storing German police data due to a risk of U.S. snooping, Germany’s top data protection officer told POLITICO.

Ulrich Kelber, Germany’s federal commissioner for data protection and freedom of information, said that U.S. authorities could invoke the CLOUD Act to demand access to data held by Amazon Web Services — creating a risk for German government bodies that store data with them.

The CLOUD Act, passed last year by Donald Trump’s administration, allows American authorities to compel U.S.-based tech companies to provide requested data, regardless of whether that data is stored in the U.S. or abroad.

German data storage laws ‘threaten free trade’

Germany’s data storage laws are comparable to those of Russia and China, according to a top US tech think tank. Forcing companies to store data locally hinders the global digital economy, the ITIF argues.

Germany is up there with Russia, China, Turkey, and Indonesia on a list of countries that pursue protectionist policies that damage global technological innovation, according to a leading US think tank.

The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) released a report this week arguing that Germany’s data storage law, which was updated in 2015 to tighten cybersecurity, was a potentially damaging hindrance to free trade.

The 2015 law change forced telecom companies to store metadata locally in Germany, rather than anywhere else – even in the European Union. This amendment “potentially violates rules that protect the freedom of services…  and the free flow of personal data” protected by EU laws, the ITIF said in its report entitled “The Worst Innovation Mercantilist Policies of 2016.”

But some German economists were skeptical. Barbara Engels, digitization specialist at the Cologne Institute for Economic Research (IWK), seemed surprised by the ITIF’s accusation. “I don’t see a problem the way this institute does,” she told DW. “I don’t really see exactly how it should hinder innovation.”

Germans hand police too much data, court rules

German authorities have too much access to people’s internet and mobile phone data and laws must be rewritten as they are unconstitutional, a court says.

The federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe has ruled that the privacy of Germans should be better protected.

Police investigating crimes or trying to prevent terror attacks are currently allowed to access names, addresses, birth dates and IP addresses. They are not entitled to access data involving connections to other people.

However, campaigners challenged the existing laws, and the judges agreed police should only be allowed such access if there was a specific danger or suspicion of a crime. Current laws violated the right of citizens to phone and internet privacy, they ruled.

Privacy is a significant concern for Germans for historical reasons, dating back to the all-pervasive Stasi intelligence service of the old East Germany and the vicious Gestapo of the Nazi era.

Wary Germans hate sharing their data. Will they use a Covid-19 tracking app?

LondonCNN Business — 

European governments are racing to develop apps that can track the spread of the coronavirus to prevent a second wave of infections when the economy reopens.

Germany is further along than most, and hopes to have an app ready to download within a few weeks. But details are scarce, and if the app is to succeed, Germans will have to overcome a widespread reluctance to share data with authorities that is rooted deep in the country’s history during the Nazi period and under Communist rule in East Germany.

“The skepticism of Germans in terms of data protection is remarkable when it comes to sharing data [with the government],” said University of Mannheim Professor Sebastian Siegloch, who has studied German attitudes toward surveillance and privacy.