Privacy Law

Right to secure data transfer

Transferring data carries risks, especially if it is sensitive data. Businesses are increasingly shying away from using unencrypted e-mails for security reasons. Germany’s Federal Court of Justice recently held that public authorities must provide businesses with secure data transfer options.

The right to secure data transfer © ferkelraggae-Fotolia

The right to secure data transfer © ferkelraggae-Fotolia

Secure data transfer

In a case heard by Germany’s Bundesgerichtshof (BGH), judges held that public authorities are not entitled to insist that businesses transfer data to them via unencrypted e-mail (26.02.2013 Az. KVZ 57/12).

The dispute arose between cartel authorities and a company. The company wanted to transfer an Excel file via encrypted data transfer for security reasons.

The authorities were disinterested in the company’s security concerns and demanded that the data be transferred via regular unencrypted e-mail.

The BGH took the view that it is unreasonable to expect a business, to transfer data in an unsecure format, regardless of whether the files contain sensitive data or not.

Data storage devices

In justifying its decision, the court argued that where public authorities do not offer a secure data transfer option, they can request businesses to send information via data storage device, for example in DVD format or saved on a USB or external hard drive.

Christian Solmecke is a partner at the law firm WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE. He is the author of numerous legal publications in the area of internet and IT law. He is also an associate lecturer for social media law at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences.

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