Summary and Key Thematic Areas
During this session Professor (Doktor) Burkert first provided a history of data protection, an idea which the Germans “stole” from the U.S. and codified in the 1970 Hesse Data Protection Act. It was a recognition that, somehow, data handling by machines makes people uncomfortable. This led to furious debate on the question tool -- do different contexts/entities handling the data (through machines) lead to different levels of user comfort? This debate turned to a comparison between the different perceptions and motivations of public and private parties in data collection and processing. Are governments more likely to use data for control, compared to a user experience motivation in the private sector? Or are the dangers of the private sector’s handling of such data equally problematic? This recalls JZ’s refrain that users are willingly marching toward a non-generative/controlled environment for the sake of convenience and enhanced user experience. One other interesting concept from Burkert’s presentation was the European Info Act’s emphasis on proportionality in evaluating whether or not data should be released: the need has to justify release of personal information.
One poignant tweet interestingly weaved between Prof. Dr. Burkert’s lecture and Professor Malone’s, from KendraSerra, “Conflict between "right to be forgotten" and "right to speak" evident in European/American privacy views. #ilaw2011”, foreshadowing the many divergent views on privacy and Internet that cross geographic boundaries will surely encounter as it continues to evolve.
Key Areas of Debate
- Zittrain: Who are “European countries kidding” -- are hyper-strict privacy regimes are unrealistic?
- Why are people more comfortable with private companies like Google handling data than government? Possible theories are: differing levels of visibility in privacy encroachment (high for government, low for private companies), social adjustment, perception that private companies can enhance user experience with more data whereas government has malicious intent, levels of (potential) harm
- Conflicting privacy regimes tending to reinforce existing values
- Why Germany (or the EU generally) and the US have diverged in acceptance of levels of data privacy
Further Questions (for Future of Internet Discussion)
- As the Internet and technologies increasingly blur physical boundaries, how should we address national differences in privacy law?
- For Prof. Burkert: How do economics and concerns about the market inform the conversation about privacy? Do cost-based concerns about data protection regulation get much traction (as they do in the US).
- What (if any) is the relationship between the strong, protection-of-personality privacy law that has arisen in Germany and the more limited use of e-commerce and social media in Germany than in the US? More generally, how and why have attitudes toward privacy developed differently in Germany and the US?
- Given the economic implications of privacy regulation for e-commerce, how should regulators and policymakers be thinking about the policy process around privacy?