The Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information

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Bonn/Berlin, 23/10/2019

Press release 24/2019

Report of the Data Ethics Commission strengthens Data Protection

The final report presented today by the Data Ethics Commission (DEK) highlights the prominent role of data protection in the digital age and sets out a number of future-oriented recommendations for action. The Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (BfDI) hopes that the Federal Government will take up and implement the findings of the report as guiding principles in its future data policy.

Ulrich Kelber, who himself participated in the drafting of the report as a member of the DEK, praised the Commission for its findings: Experts from all different disciplines have worked together to find answers for resolving the pressing challenges in how to deal with the ongoing digitalisation of society. From the outset, it was clear that strong data protection must necessarily be an essential part of these solutions. Precisely because many voices are raised arguing that data protection in the digital age is not a necessity and an opportunity, but rather an obstacle, this is a clear message.

In addition to the general emphasis on the importance of fundamental data protection principles, from the BfDI’s perspective, the call for more transparency - inter alia in connection with profiling and consumer terminal equipment – stands out among the 75 recommendations in total from the DEK. In the DEK’s view, for example, terminal equipment should be provided with privacy pictograms to enable consumers to make informed purchasing decisions. For each type of profiling, data subjects should also receive meaningful information about the algorithm used.

Another claim to be highlighted is that of an effective control of algorithms. In this case, the DEK takes a risk-adapted approach to regulation. The higher the potential for damages, the more conditions should be laid down for using algorithms, and the more control options would need to be provided. This spans from applications with no or with little potential for damages, for which there is no need for specific quality requirements or special control mechanisms, to applications with unacceptable potential for damages, which would have to be totally or at least partially prohibited.

The DEK was set up by the Federal Government on 18 July 2018 to address key questions on the complex of issues regarding algorithmic forecasting and decision-making processes, artificial intelligence and data. In addition to representatives from science, politics and industry, privacy- and consumer advocates are also among their members.

Report of the Data Ethics Commission - Executive Summary (in English)

Report of the Data Ethics Commission (Download in German)