Federal Ministry of Finance:
grants Google insights into their web visitors

Alvar Freude

The Finance Ministry scores highly in terms of carelessness with data. It could be described as naïvety, too: On their website, every visit to every page, every search, every order placed for a brochure etc. is being logged. So far, so normal. What is less normal is that the data find their way to Google: The Finance Ministry is using the “Google Analytics” service to collect and evaluate information about its web visitors. Google stores these data in the US. Mr Steinbrück, you are still storing our tax returns in Germany, aren’t you?

Peter Frankenberg, Minister for Science, Research and the Arts, Federal State of Baden-Württemberg:
wants to know exactly who refuses him obedience

Alvar Freude

Peter Frank is obviously a nosy fellow. The Minister for Science, Research and the Arts in Baden-Württemberg instructed all the state’s institutions of higher education to hand over data of all students that were taking the state to court over the introduction of tuition fees. It didn’t earn him the status of “smart fellow” though (for which the region’s people traditionally like to be known): The State Data Commissioner for Baden-Württemberg intervened, and the data had to be erased.

Public health insurance companies:
call for breach of law

Werner Hülsmann

Public health insurance companies regularly send out letters to doctors and hospitals, requesting patients’ files from them although such files may only be conveyed to a common authority called “Health Insurers’ Medical Service” (Medizinischer Dienst der Krankenkassen, MDK), not to the insurance companies themselves. A phrase like, for instance:

“We ask you to fill out the attached report form and send it back to us within 3 days by mail or fax, to be laid before the Medical Service.”

is nothing less than a call for a criminal offence. The unwarranted disclosure of patients’ data by a doctor constitutes a violation of § 203 StGB (the German Criminal Code). If a report is sent to the insurance company by fax, unwarranted disclosure in the sense of the law is literally unavoidable. Only the “Medical Service” is authorised to investigate doctors’ reports on behalf of the insurers. Diagnoses must be withheld from the companies for a reason: The risk would be too great that they might try, e.g. in order to reduce costs, to interfere with the course of treatment and therapy, for instance by delaying payments etc. According to the “Federal Master Treaty for Medical Practitioners” (Bundesmantelvertrag für Ärzte), a report can only be passed on “in a sealed envelope”.1

Even sealed envelopes marked „Only to be opened by the MDK“ do not, in the experience of MDK employees, guarantee that the envelopes will reach the MDK unopened. In reality, many such envelopes that arrive at the MDK have been “opened inadvertently”.

The only appropriate wording in these request letters from the insurance companies would be: “We ask you to fill out the included report form and send it, through the post, to the MDK in a sealed envelope.” To make sure that the letter arrives at the only place where it may lawfully arrive, the address of the respective MDK branch should be added.

University of Bielefeld, Faculty for Economics:
trusts neither the students nor their doctors

Florian Glatzner

Another note of disapproval goes to the Faculty for Economics of the University of Bielefeld, representing many other departments of many other universities.

In this department (and these other departments or universities) it is no longer sufficient for students to hand in a “normal” writ from their doctors in case they are taken ill before an exam. Instead, the doctors are required to disclose their diagnosis in detail.

This has to be passed on to the exams office, which expressly states that it will then decide itself whether the student is able to take the exam or not.

Final decision on whether a student is medically fit to take an exam is thereby claimed by university bureaucrats and taken away from medical experts. Additionally, universities claim a right to breach a doctor’s obligation to professional secrecy.

“Stadt und Land” (City and Country), a Berlin housing society:
monitor a complete residential area


Despite massive protests voiced by some residents, the video surveillance scheme is continuing. It is supposed to get rid of “occurrences that […] are irritating. […] From yob behaviour to dogs in the sandbox to vandalism”. Instead of fostering social engagement in their tenants, they resort to “simply” threatening them at camera point, all the time.

Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG):
evaluate video surveillance with strict science – or not

Frank Rosengart

Berlin’s public transport company Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) have landed a very special coup: Their trials of CCTV monitoring and recording in selected stations were accompanied by a scientific study. Following evaluation, the Berlin Senate was to decide upon continuation of the surveillance. To the surprise of both data protection advocates and Senators, BVG decided even before publication of the evaluation results that CCTV surveillance would be massively extended – without any approval from data protectors or politicians.

1 See http://www.kvwl.de/arzt/recht/kbv/bmv-blanko.htm, especially: http://www.kvwl.de/arzt/recht/kbv/blanko/c_blankomuster_08_15.pdf, page 10