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German firms plan online 'master key'

May 8, 2017

German companies have launched an effort to curb the data industry dominance of Google and Facebook, with a joint platform for online registration and data services to make access simpler and more secure.

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Image: picture-alliance/picturedesk.com/H. Ringhofer

The group of leading German and European companies includes insurance giant Allianz, publisher Axel Springer, lenders Deutsche Bank and Postbank, carmaker Daimler as well as tech companies Core and HERE. They signed a declaration of intent on Monday aimed at creating a common cross-industry registration, identity and data platform.

The idea behind the cooperation was to "provide a competitive, European response to the platform economy's main players," the group said in a statement.

As criticism about data privacy is mounting on industry behemoths Google and Facebook, the initiative announced it would seek to make the safety of personal data an "absolute imperative for businesses and consumers alike."

Christian Sewing, Deputy CEO of Deutsche Bank, said that Europeans must at last play out their strengths in digitalization. "The time is ripe for a platform initiative of this kind. It will increase legal certainty for clients and boost the European digital economy's growth," he said in a statement.

And Edzard Overbeek, the chief of mapping-service company HERE added that new digital products, services and solutions were "rapidly changing the way we live, move and interact," for which it was essential to have access in a "user-friendly and secure way."

Keeping it secure

Essentially, this pan-industry platform will allow customers to determine whether and how their personal data can be used by third parties. The core of this is a 'master key' with which customers can choose to register and identify themselves online.

The new, standard access procedure for online activities is supposed to guarantee the "highest standards in data security and data protection," with the platform complying with EU data protection reforms, as well as the provisions of the eIDAS regulation which governs trust services for electronic identification (eID).

"Experience has shown that user-friendly online registration models are a key factor for the success of any digital publishers' products," said Mathias Döpfner, chief executive of Axel Springer publishing company.

Flexible benefits

Due to the platform's adaptability, the initiative noted that it would be open to others not just businesses, including to public authorities and citizen portals. Additional functions, like digital access to e-government services would also be supported, as well as payment and financial services.

After launching the effort, the initiative is now looking for more partners from across different sectors, preferably aviation companies, retailers, e-commerce agents and telecommunications companies. Several companies had already shown an interest in the platform after preliminary discussions, it said.

The German government has welcomed the initiative, and a number of leading European research organizations such as the Frauenhofer Institute have said they would provide scientific support.

Big Data - Its risks and opportunities

uhe/tr (AFP, Reuters, dpa)


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