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Online privacy

December 5, 2010

Berlin has called for increased protection of online personal data ahead of a national IT summit. The Internet can not be a lawless space without rules, Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned.

Computer keyboard
The fresh warnings come ahead of a national IT summitImage: BilderBox

The German government on the weekend pushed for improved protection of personal data on the Internet.

Ahead of a national IT summit on Tuesday, both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger have demanded binding rules for the use of private data online.

"We have to decide this in a broad discussion in society," Merkel said in her weekly video blog on Saturday. "The Internet cannot be a lawless space without rules. But we also have to be careful not to curtail the opportunities that the Internet offers."

Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger told the Monday edition of the Hamburger Abendblatt daily that any law or regulation shouldn't be limited to only certain websites.

"The debates about social networks like Facebook or Internet services like Google Street View have shown that our data protection jurisdiction has to be fundamentally reworked," she wrote.

In order to better protect individuals, Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger called for opt-in options and a right of objection to be part of any new legislation on the matter.

Social networks such as Facebook could be forced to implement higher levels of data protection on their sites. As a particular danger, the justice minister mentioned companies creating profiles of individual Internet users.

WikiLeaks affair 'shocking'

Volker Kauder
Kauder says the US has to better protect sensitive dataImage: dpa

Volker Kauder, parliamentary leader of Merkel's Christian Democrats, said everybody should have the right to find out exactly what kind of personal information and data is stored on the web - and should have the right to have that data deleted anytime.

With reference to the recent WikiLeaks release of classified US cables, Kauder also lashed out at how sloppily Washington handled the sensitive data. He told the Sunday edition of mass circulation daily Bild that the US needed to improve data protection.

"It is shocking when you find out that more than 2 million people in the United States had access to this sensitive data," Kauder told the paper. "It's irresponsible and not in the interest of the US either."

The comments over the weekend came ahead of the country's fifth national IT summit on Tuesday where a group of experts from politics, business and science will discuss problems and controversies caused by new technology and the Internet.

Both Merkel and Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger are expected to attend the summit, along with Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere and other high-profile politicians.

Author: Andreas Illmer (dpa, apn)
Editor: Martin Kuebler