RegulationSurveillance-IT

Telefonica Deutschland CEO Wants Looser Privacy Regulations In Germany

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Telefonica Deutschland boss wants to monetise customer data, despite touchy feelings in Germany

The head of Telefonica Deutschland, the largest mobile operator in Germany has called for a debate about the future online privacy in that country.

Privacy remains a highly sensitive subject in Germany, and comes amid a growing global discouse about consumer data and online privacy.

Telecom Frustration

security and privacyThorsten Dirks explained that his company was looking at ways to monetise customer data, but before it could do that, Germany needs to reconsider its privacy stance.

“We need to have a wide discussion about data in Germany,” Dirks was quoted by Reuters as saying. “People are right to scrutinise any attempt to make money off their data. At the same time they are a handing over data voluntarily to companies such as Google and Facebook.

Dirks apparently feels this a double standard among consumers, and his feelings highlight the frustration felt among telecom operators that Internet firms such as Google and Facebook can use their communications infrastructure in order to gather personal data about their customers for monetary purposes, whilst telecom firms cannot.

It is thought that telecom firms have access to huge amounts of data, and Dirks for one feels this data could be used for general purposes. For example, anonymised data on its 44 million mobile subscribers’ movements could be used for crowd or traffic control, as well as “many other areas that we at the moment cannot think of”, Dirks reportedly said.

It seems that Telefonica Deutschland has created a start-up company called Telefonica Germany NEXT, which aims to explore the opportunities that so called big data provides.

German Privacy

Privacy remains a sensitive subject in Germany. In 2014 Switzerland and Germany scored well in a poll of TechweekEurope readers about which countries are the most trustworthy with their citizens data and have the best privacy laws.

And Germany’s entire privacy stance was demonstrated in 2014 under government rules which state that IT companies that want to work for the German public sector must guarantee they are not supplying information to any foreign intelligence agency.

In that same year the German government cancelled a contract with the US telecoms giant Verizon Communications, owing to concerns about the spying activities of the National Security Agency (NSA), as revealed by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Many Germans were also outraged when it was reported that the NSA had wiretapped the mobile phone belonging to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

And a couple of months ago Facebook’s WhatsApp division was warned by a German data protection watchdog, the Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, to stop collecting and storing data on German users.

What do you know about privacy? Try our quiz!