One-third of German internet users would pay for data protection, survey finds

Mac and iPod. US, 2003. [ISA/Flickr]

German internet users strongly oppose the sale and misuse of their personal data, according to a recent study, and are willing to pay €900 million for data protection. EURACTIV Germany reports.

Online consumption is spreading like wildfire but users are often reluctant to pay for products, such as news or computer games. These were among the findings of a recent survey of German internet users, conducted by the German Institute for Trust and Security on the Internet (DIVSI) and the polling institute dimap.

According to the study’s results, 76% of internet users take advantage of free online offers, while almost one-third never pay anything.

“When convenience is free on the internet, people will make use of these free offers. But most Germans know they are paying for them with their own data,” explained Michael Kammer, the director at DIVSI. He spoke on Monday (17 November) when the study’s results were released.

A majority of respondents in the survey were aware that online providers make money off of their personal data. But 80% were decidedly against this form of doing business. More than one-third of those surveyed were even prepared to pay money to ensure that their data would only be used according to their own wishes and not be sold without their consent.

Those willing to pay said they were prepared to spend an average of €41 per year for this kind of service. As a result, data protection is worth a combined €900 million to Germans.

Most respondents who did not want to pay, showed a certain measure of scepticism. 59% were unconvinced that more money would really lead to better data security. Even individuals who were willing to invest money were doubtful; almost 80% said they did not believe that a payment model for data security is plausible.

Germans are prepared to pay an average of €41 per year to protect their data online. [Johan Nilsson]Germans are prepared to pay an average of €41 per year to protect their data online. [Johan Nilsson]

According to responses to the survey, users agreed that the issue is in political hands now.

“Almost all of [those surveyed], 97%, claimed that misuse of personal data should be more closely tracked and more strongly penalised,” indicated dimap CEO Reinhard Schlinkert. As many as 95% said foreign companies on the internet should be required to comply with German data protection regulations.

Meanwhile, 86% spoke in favour of a legal ban on commercial use of data.

DIVSI’s Kammer said “politicians should do more to fulfill their responsibility by imposing uniform data protection, in the interest of consumers, on domestic and foreign companies active in Germany”.

The survey’s results also send a strong message to providers, Kammer continued. 96% of respondents called on providers to increase transparency with regard to informing users about the storage of their personal data, he indicated.

“Providers should consider attractive payment models, combined with an honest promise to be more careful with data from internet users,” Kammer pointed out.

In addition, Kammer said the market should mull a labelling scheme. As with the existing system for organic food products, internet consumers would then be able to identify whether or not their data is safe.

Existing European rules on data protectionwere adopted in 1995, when the internet was still in its infancy.

In January 2012, the European Commission published a vast legislative package aimed at replacing the existing rules and giving greater protection to personal data across the EU.

The package includes two legislative proposals: one general regulation on data protection (directly applicable in all the member states) and one directive specifically aimed at data protection in the police and the justice systems (to be transposed into national law).

>> Read: Reding unveils new EU data protection rules

Since then, the data protection debate has taken a new twist with revelations about US eavesdropping activities.

Whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed in 2013 that the NSA had secret wide-reaching authority to snoop on emails and internet communications using a data-mining programme called Prism.

European politicians reacted angrily to the news and called for stricter measures to ensure privacy.

They say that this kind of activity confirms their fears about the behaviour of American internet giants and demonstrates the need for stricter regulations.

Meanwhile, the EU and the USA have entered into transatlantic trade negotiations.


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