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German Watchdog Publishes Report On Data Protection, Transparency And Interoperability

 |  May 18, 2023

On Wednesday Germany’s Bundeskartellamt published the final report on its sector inquiry into messenger and video services.

Andreas Mundt, President of the Bundeskartellamt: “Messenger and video services have become an everyday means of communication for most of us. Users are often not aware that not all services equally ensure the protection of their personal data. The legal regulations for and the technical basis of data security are complex, intricate and difficult to understand. Clear provisions, information and more transparency could lead to the issue of data protection becoming more important to users when deciding for or against the use of one messenger service or another. As a result, providers would in turn have a greater incentive to ensure a high level of data protection.”

The Bundeskartellamt’s inquiry takes an in-depth look at the technical and legal framework conditions of messenger and video services. It especially focuses on the issues of data protection and data security.

Related: The Need For Employee-Specific Data Protection Law: Potential Lessons From Germany For The EU

The Bundeskartellamt has found that some services are likely to violate consumer law provisions regarding functions which are particularly important to users:

– If the contact list is synchronised, the data of those contacts that have so far not registered with the relevant service are also collected. In the Bundeskartellamt’s view, this practice may violate the GDPR if it is employed on a permanent basis. This also applies if the telephone numbers are shown in encrypted form.

– Some messenger and video services are also not in compliance with the law when transferring and storing data. Personal data of German and European consumers may only be transferred to and stored in countries where the level of data protection is similar to that ensured by the European GDPR. Based on the current legal situation, the transfer of data to and their storage in the USA in particular is not permissible.

– According to the German Act against Unfair Competition (UWG), consumers also have to be given truthful information on how the security of their communication is ensured, e.g. through data encryption. In the Bundeskartellamt’s assessment, the current practice of many services should be improved.