German Academies of Science Defend Privacy in the Digital Age

The German Academy of Science and Engineering, the National  Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and the Union of German Academies of Sciences published a joint statement arguing that those who want to take advantage of digitalization do not necessarily have to accept its disadvantages. In fact, technology might be able to help us protect our privacy!

While the loss of privacy is often portrayed as a consequence of technological development with no alternative, a working group of scientists in the published statement “Privatheit in Zeiten der Digitalisierung” (Privacy in Times of Digitalization) shows that there is a wide range of measures to protect privacy in the digital age.

Through the use of digital services, Internet providers and other institutions that collect and evaluate data from users are gaining increasingly far-reaching insights into the privacy of the individual. Possible negative consequences include social control options that allow technology providers to control individuals and their social behaviors. Another danger is the facilitated monitoring of individuals by state and private actors.

In addition to legal and societal measures, there are many technological possibilities to make data misuse more difficult. Especially the technological developments for handling large amounts of data and machine learning offer new possibilities to develop digital services that either do not require the storage of user data or offer the user transparency regarding the further use of their data. In addition, however, clear legal regulations and social measures are needed to strengthen citizens’ digital competence in handling their data.

The 72-page report can be read in its entirety in German here: