Federal Data Protection Act (Bundesdatenschutzgesetz) (BDSG) is the main regulation that deals with the right of protection for private and family life. With the other data protection regulations of the German federal states and other area-specific regulations, the BDSG regulates the exposure of personal data which are retained or manually processed in IT systems.
However, it is stated; “As of 25 May 2018, Regulation (EU) 679/2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data (General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)) will replace the current BDSG.”
Both the GDPR and BDSG will run parallel and public entities will need to follow both the GDPR and data protection laws of the relevant German federal states.
The German constitution protects freedom of expression. However, numerous laws place limitations on the freedom of expression. One of such examples is Criminal Code which penalizes the libel and slander. Also, the newly enforced Network Enforcement Act has been criticized for influencing the right to freedom of expression through demanding social media website to monitor and remove certain content.
What are the Privacy Rights and Who can Act?
The privacy or privacy rights are not clearly defined by the German laws. However, this generally means that there is no right to process an individual’s personal information unlawfully.
The individuals are given the right to get information about data processing, access, rectification, deletion, and to stop the processing, data probability and the right to oppose the data processing in certain circumstance.
The Copyright Law (Section 22) allows an individual to object the unauthorized distribution or display of his/her personal photographs.
The right of privacy proceedings is given to the affected individuals or the competent data protection authorities.
The individuals could demand protection through the ordinary court or could register complaints to the competent data protection authorities. However, the data protection authorities could initiate the administrative procedures on their own.
German Laws Encompassing Internet Regulation
There are certain German laws which have some regulations regarding the internet privacy.
Access Impediment Act (Zugangserschwerungsgesetz)
German federal parliament (Bundestag) passed this law in June 2009. This law enforced the regulation of internet blocking of sites which are involved in distributing the child pornography.
However, the law was not implemented until the change of governing coalition which occurred after the federal election in September 2009. The new governing parties, GDU and FDP agreed on the point that instead of blocking the site they will force the deletion for one year. And, after one year the result of deletion policy will be reviewed.
In April 2011, the governing parties ultimately decided to remove repeal the law altogether.
Ancillary Copyright for Press Publishers
The Bundestag passed this law in 2013 that was majorly interpreted as the one which attempts to have Google subsidize the German news.
This law was passed as a result of lobbying efforts by new publishers which began in 2009.
This law prevents search results from returning the excerpts from news sites unless the search engine has paid a license for them.
Therefore, the Google has updated the search to only display the headlines from certain sites.
Network Enforcement Act
This law Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz or NetzDG was passed in June 2017 and enforced in January 2018. This law focuses to censor the online extremism in Germany.
It forces the social media companies and for-profit websites with over 2 million users to remove the offensive illegal content within 24 hours. It allows for one week to review “more legally ambiguous content” to these websites.
This law was excessively criticized and the question about the feasibility of fining companies €50 million for failing to comply was raised.
A German internet user sued the Facebook for deleting a post that was critical of Germany in a case which has been called the “first test case” of NetzDG. In April 2018, the court ordered to restore the comment.