Mass data-transfer audit takes off in Germany amid privacy concerns

31 January 2017 9:56am

3rd November 2016. By Vesela Gladicheva

Some 500 companies of all sizes and industries will come under scrutiny in Germany over the way they transfer personal data to countries outside the EU.

Privacy watchdogs in 10 German states have randomly selected companies and could launch an in-depth probe if the audit reveals citizens’ private information isn’t adequately protected.

“Within the scope of the audit, some 500 companies are selected [randomly],” said the Bavarian data-protection authority today. “The supervisory authorities have placed great importance in involving companies of different sizes and different sectors,” it said.

The regulators haven’t revealed which companies will be targeted. The businesses operate in 11 industries, including credit management, insurance, online commerce and trade, the Hamburg watchdog told MLex in an email.

Internet companies such as Facebook and WhatsApp are already under the spotlight in the country over the way they handle citizens’ personal information.

Many small and medium-sized companies in Germany routinely process the personal information of customers and employees using servers of other businesses often based in the US, the Hamburg-based watchdog said today.

“Companies are not always aware of the fact that a transfer of personal data to the US or other non-EU countries takes place,” the Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information said in a statement.

“In recent years, cross-border transfers of personal data in the private sector have continued to grow massively,” the regulator said.

Companies will receive requests to provide information about specific products and services they provide. Businesses will also have to reveal the legal basis on which they carry out data transfers to countries outside the bloc.

The regional privacy watchdogs involved are located in the states of Bavaria, Berlin, Bremen, Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland and Saxony-Anhalt.