Hamburg Is At The Helm Of Data Protection

By Anthony K

Going up against big tech firms like Facebook and Google is always a losing battle, especially when you try to regulate how these firms handle data. Many people have agreed behind closed doors that data protection from large technology companies should be a top focus. But no one was ever willing to go up against them.

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Johannes Caspar, the German city-state of Hamburg’s data protection commissioner for over a decade, has worked to rethink the function of municipal data protection agencies. He became the country’s most candid data protection commissioner during the period when Google was starting its StreetView initiative in Hamburg.

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Caspar’s office phone was ringing off the hook from endless calls from residents complaining that cars were taking pictures of them without consent. This pushed Caspar to insist that Google should blur out faces and buildings from their raw data. This move by Caspar sparked many other data privacy battles between the public against big tech.

Hamburg went to take on Facebook and Google over the cross-sharing of information. The argument was that the two companies were breaching German consumer rights. The case was met by bureaucracy and slow decision-making at the European Data Protection Board.

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There has been a lot of chatter over implementing the General Data Protection Regulation (EU) (GPDR). Some have said the regulation and resources allocated are insufficient to go against these data giants. Many like Caspar have called for an overhaul of the entire system and have an authority solely charged with making decisions faster as the current one is not working.