Legal fundamentals

Data protection act - what does that mean?

The German Federal Data Protection Act is not protecting data, but is protecting individuals from the dangers of modern data processing. As it says in § 1 Section 1 German Federal Data Protection Act: "The purpose of this Act is to protect the individual against his/her right to privacy being impaired through the handling of his/her personal data." The personal rights of the individual person is established constitutionally in Article 1 Paragraf 1 in connection with Article 2 Paragraf 1 Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany.

A particular characteristic of this personal rights is the right to informational self-determination. According to it everyone has the right to determine which information about oneself is given to whom, when and to which purpose. This right of self-determination is fundamental because "the freedom of individuals to make plans or decisions in reliance on their personal powers of self-determination may be significantly inhibited if they cannot with sufficient certainty determine what information on them is known in certain areas of their social sphere and in some measure appraise the extent of knowledge in the possession of possible interlocutors. (...) A person who is uncertain as to whether unusual behaviour is being taken note of at all times and the information permanently stored, used or transferred to others will attempt to avoid standing out through such behaviour" (BVerfGE 65, 1 - Census Act; Translation provided by the German Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung).

With regard to certain citizens the Data Protection Act is protecting the individual in his/her development and self-fulfillment. With regard to all citizens the Data Protection Act is also protecting the free democratic society, because this will only work when all its members are able to participate freely.

Scope of application & definition of personal data

Protecting your personal information is the main purpose of data protection. The German Federal Data Protection Act is protecting the personal rights of individuals. Personal data should not be processed without legal reasons.

Personal data means any information concerning the personal or material circumstances of an identified or identifiable individual. Examples are name, address, education, job, hobby, consumer preference, statements, evaluations, pictures of this person, income, credit standing, wealth, etc. Special categories of personal data are information on a person's racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical convictions, union membership, health or sex life. Your personal data is protected if processed electronically or manually, i.e. by a register. However, in general, there is no protection, if data is only stored in an only-paperbased record.

The German Federal Data Protection Act is not applicable, if your personal data is only processed with regard to a personal or family matter. However, if personal data is processed by publishing it via internet, exceptions for personal or family matters do not longer apply.

As the name imlpies, the EU General Data Protection Regulation will result in a new regulation of privacy throughout Europe. Therefore we will recognize to what extent the changes affect existing agreements and procedures in the following years. The aim of the BayLDA is to inform about this process on our website at regular intervals.