While Italy got by Germany, the Bundestag tried to pull a fast one

Much ado about nothing? During the European Championship match between Germany and Italy, the Bundestag decided to reform the "Registration Act". In Germany, it is mandatory that every citizen has to register at the local Kreis (county). The question politically is how this data may be used.

Presently, the census is a matter of public record. In fact, it is common that law firms can buy this data to locate their clients' debtors. Current law states that any person or institution can access this information, such as names and addresses, from the local government. Having a reason to access this information is not necessary. While one can block a case that has been generated automatically, it is not possible to halt an individual inquiry.

The government's draft of 31 August 2011 suggested allowing consent, which is an "opt in", for the advertising and trade branches. Each citizen has the right to willingly choose whether his or her data may be used for these purposes. In the parliamentary debate, on an evening in which most of Germany was distracted by football, the "opt in" component was changed to "opt out".

Only after the Bundestag, one house of the German Parliament, passed this law, a strong debate about data protection began. Many journalists and bloggers pointed out that only a few MPs were present in that session. To be fair, this is not very unusual in parliamentary practice, where decisions are prepared in the committees.

Nevertheless, only a few days later the government completely reversed their position and said that an "opt in" solution would be preferable. Moreover, some of the Länder (federal states) pointed out that the Bundesrat, the other house of parliament, would reject this new law outright. After all of the legislative maneuvering that has already taken place, it seems that there will, in fact, be an "opt out" solution for the time being.


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