Datonomy attended the event “Datendialog” hosted by Google in Berlin on 24 November, where many interesting speakers discussed the current situation and future of privacy, but also openness.
Blogger and Science Fiction author Cory Doctorow described the current situation of many free internet offers as “privacy bargain”, in which users traded their personal data for services. The deal, however, would be one-sided and never negotiated. Therefore, Doctorow called for technical measures that would prevent companies from tracking users with cookies and compared the situation to pop up windows, the widespread use of which decreased after Mozilla, as first browser, started offering a tool to block these windows. In his words, cookie managers could be the new pop up blocker.
Federal data protection commissioner Peter Schaar said that German data protection law needed to be amended especially with regard to the question of applicable law. If companies systematically offered services in Europeand collected and used personal data of millions of European users, they should be forced to comply with basic values of European law. He criticised the government’s current preference of self-regulatory solutions as these had the inherent danger of staying below legal rules. Secretary of State Rogall Grothe of the Ministry of Interior, on the other hand, stressed that youth protection level had increased due to self-regulatory solutions in the industry.
Contrary, author Jeff Jarvis emphasised that the principles of publicness and ethical sharing should also be protected, as they allowed for a more open society. He would not want a society that was “private by default”. However, he also stressed that privacy and publicness are not self excluding principles.
Google, once tagged as “data kraken”, is at the moment in the rather comfortable situation that Facebook attracts almost all criticism regarding data protection problems with its approach that German data protection law does not apply to them. For example, Cory Doctorow described their business model as “making big changes and settle for a little less after public outcry”. However, the event showed that Google does not hesitate to invite critics as Cory Doctorow and data protection commissioner Peter Schaar and seems to be interested playing an active role in the discussion about the necessary extent of data protection.