At the moment we have to be careful not to glorify digitalisation. On the one hand, there are companies with an interest in profit, which, for example, write “smart” or “artificial intelligence” on something, but the technology behind is completely non-transparent and usually cannot do as much as is claimed. And we have to beware of politicians who try to solve social problems with technology, often by surveillance. In some cases, blind faith in technology is more likely to create new problems than to solve them. For example, data retention: a law that keeps coming back. Civil rights activists and data protectionists have been fighting against it for decades and it is often presented as a panacea against crime. But no one has ever been able to prove what it is supposed to achieve. The concept behind this is that telecommunications companies are obliged to store the data of their users for a certain period of time. In Germany, there is currently a valid law that requires, for example, to store all so-called metadata for several weeks. This is enough to illuminate the entire life of a person. But the question I ask myself is, where is the point of looking for the needle in the haystack if I pour more hay on it. And it’s an incredibly large encroachment on fundamental rights to illuminate an entire life without it even being clear how I can better prosecute actual crimes and criminals. And it is this blind faith in technology that puts us in danger. An important fundamental right is being abolished, a right of defence against a state that does not always have to remain democratic, that can also end up in authoritarian hands. The actual things that would really help, such as social security or, for example, counselling services so that people do not become perpetrators at all, feel involved and have a purpose in life, are neglected for this and that is one of the greatest dangers we are currently facing.
Data protector and fundamental rights activist
Since 2017 campaigner and editor at the association Digitalcourage e.V. in Bielefeld
Organisation of the constitutional complaint against telecommunications surveillance and the so-called “impending danger” in the NRW Police Act
Digitalcourage has been committed to data protection and civil rights since 1987 and has been organising the annual ceremony of the BigBrotherAwards since 2000. In 2008, Digitalcourage received the Theodor Heuss Medal for special commitment to civil rights.