Minister ‘heartened’ by Merkel shift on data privacy laws

Dara Murphy welcomes German move towards more business-friendly approach

Data protection Minister Dara Murphy: Chancellor’s thinking was echoed in meetings this week  with leading data protection officials. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Data protection Minister Dara Murphy: Chancellor’s thinking was echoed in meetings this week with leading data protection officials. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Ireland’s data protection Minister Dara Murphy has welcomed signals that Germany is anxious to embrace a more enterprise-friendly approach to data collection.

Chancellor Angela Merkel last week warned that Germany risked falling behind in the digital revolution unless it shifted from its culturally conservative approach to data collection in favour of “room to manoeuvre to allow new developments”.

“The principle of being sparing with data, one we’ve had for many years, cannot be the general rule for development of new products,” said Dr Merkel.

In recent speeches, the chancellor has picked up on warnings from Germany’s big manufacturing companies that their future hinges on being given greater ability to tap big data, the most valuable resource of the digital revolution.

Mr Murphy said he was “very heartened” by the chancellor’s thinking, which he said was echoed in meetings he held this week in Berlin with leading data protection officials.

“There was a continuation of the tone set by Angela Merkel last week, and that is very welcome from Ireland’s point of view,” said Mr Murphy.

Car industry worries

In negotiations for new EU data protection rules, Ireland has been at the forefront for striking a balance between privacy and enterprise interests.

Germany’s car industry has been at the forefront of lobbying efforts to change political minds, fearing the transition away from classic cars could see them downgraded as contract manufacturers of electric cars for technology companies.

Asked about the shift in thinking in Germany’s ruling Christian Democrat Union (CDU), party officials conceded that attitudes towards data collection were undergoing rapid change.

“We have to see that data protection is adapted for the benefit of business, to increase the use of data while avoiding abuse and protecting the privacy rights of individuals,” said Dr Sven Olaf Heckel, a data protection CDU spokesman.