It’s Called Paranoia

Why is Germany a blank spot on Google’s Street View? See above.

Paranoia

There are good historical reasons why Germans are suspicious of surveillance — but is Google as bad as Gestapo or Stasi?

It’s to do with Germans’ curious sense of privacy: they’d rather flaunt their private parts than their personal data…

While public nudity is a big no-no in the United States for example, Germany has a long tradition with what is known as FKK – short for Freikörperkultur, or “Free Body Culture.” Certain beaches and areas of city parks are dedicated to nude sunbathing, and even Nacktwanderung (“nude rambling”) is a thing.

On the other hand, Germans are extremely possessive of their personal data — and are shocked by the readiness with which Americans (and others) share their names, addresses, friends’ lists, and purchase histories online.

According to research presented in the Harvard Business Review, the average German is willing to pay as much as $184 to protect their personal health data. For the average Brit, the privacy of that information is only worth $59. For Americans and Chinese, that value declines to single-digit figures.

Germans Can’t Live Without Facebook

Or at least that’s the impression I get. Otherwise, if they were so terribly worried about what Facebook does with their data, they would simply stop using it. It’s still a “free” service, right? But, of course, nothing is ever for free.

Facebook

Facebook is open about collecting a broad variety of personal information, from facial recognition data to, yes, “likes” on other sites. Privacy-minded people can easily find out what Facebook knows about them and even download the data. So it’s not as if users were deceptively kept in the dark about Facebook’s harvesting of “21st century raw materials.” That, however, is not the Federal Cartel Office’s main concern; it’s that Facebook, as a company dominant in its market, forces users to agree to these harvesting practices: They don’t really have any place else to go for their digital social needs if they feel uncomfortable about how their data are used. If it’s a choice “between accepting ‘the whole Facebook package,’ including an extensive disclosure of personal data, or not using Facebook at all,” as the regulator put it in a December document, and if Facebook is a dominant company, it’s illegal in Germany.

The regulatory attack on personal data harvesting is based on the unproven assumption that the data are valuable.