The Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information

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Bonn/Berlin, 10 July 2019

Press release 19/2019

Panel Discussion in Brussels on Data Protection and Competition

More than 300 guests attended a high-calibre panel discussion on the challenges for data protection and competitiveness in the digital age. At the initiative of the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) and the Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (BfDI), the topics up for discussion included, among others, possibilities for cooperation between regulators, and the challenges new technologies pose to effective data protection.

The European Data Protection Supervisor, Giovanni Buttarelli, said: “Massive scale data processing has serious consequences not only for individuals, but also for society, democracy and the environment. Data have become a geostrategic factor, as the disparities in the digital dividend, thus the division of society between those who have the power over their digital life, freedoms and privacy, and those who have no power, continue to grow.”

The impacts of data concentration and data power on citizens’ rights and freedom of competition now go far beyond the scope of individual areas of law, such as data protection. Not least for this reason, data protection is no longer a subject only for data protection supervisory authorities, but has long since been also an issue for other regulators, for example in the field of consumer protection or competition law. In order to counter the factual data power of large global technology companies, there is therefore a need for stronger cooperation between the various supervisory authorities. The need for a strong pan-European approach to data protection issues becomes evident also when looking at new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), cloud services or blockchain.

The Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, Ulrich Kelber, stated: “New technologies create opportunities but at the same time also risks, especially for informational self-determination. Therefore we must work together to proactively contribute, from the very start, to a "human-centred" technology that is in line with the guarantees of data protection. In this context, we should stronger institutionalise the model of cooperation between authorities in different areas of law not only at national level, but also at EU level.”

Both Mr. Buttarelli and Mr. Kelber agreed on the importance of establishing the high level of data protection guaranteed by the GDPR as a global benchmark in the development of new technologies. Data protection in general and the GDPR specifically, should not be regarded as a competitive disadvantage for European companies. Data protection is an essential component of a sustainable AI technology. Particularly in the field of digital innovation, a high level of data protection can even be a competitive advantage.

In addition to the EDPS and the BfDI, the President of the Federal Cartel Office (“Bundeskartellamt”), Andreas Mundt, the President of the French Data Protection Authority (CNIL), Marie-Laure Denis, the Secretary General of the European Commission, Martin Selmayr, and the British Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, participated in the panel discussion.