Employee Data Protection

Incorporating external expertise

This article was published on 16 June 2020 and last updated on 16 December 2021.

The advisory committee has held a total of seven sessions dealing with legal, ethical, economic and technical aspects of modern employee data protection. The handover of a final report with recommendations for action is planned for April 2021.

The Employee Data Protection Advisory Committee started its work in June 2020 and has since discussed various aspects of employee data protection over several sessions. 

The objective for the interdisciplinary advisory committee initiated by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) is to develop future-oriented recommendations for actions on employee data protection: how can we ensure that privacy in the workplace is also adequately protected in the digital age? What concrete regulations are needed for the employment relationship?

Under the chairmanship of former Federal Minister of Justice Prof. Dr Herta Däubler-Gmelin, a series of comprehensive virtual committee sessions have taken place over the past seven months despite the coronavirus pandemic, including consultations with stakeholders and experts on Artificial Intelligence (AI). The advisory committee has so far spent a total of 44 hours over eleven days in intensive discussion. The focus is on legal issues, but they are being considered in the light of ethical, economic and technological perspectives as well.

Topics ranged from the boundaries for surveillance and control of employees to the question of the legitimacy of obtaining information about applicants from sources such as social networks and even to the use of people analytics software in the field of human resource work.

A wide spectrum of external expertise has been incorporated from the very beginning of the consultations. Social partners have led the way with important contributions by bringing their positions to the table. Additionally, the co-spokesperson for the Data Ethics Commission, Prof. Dr Christiane Wendehorst, presented the thoughts of the Commission. Practical experience was incorporated by hearing representatives from the following institutions:

  • The Data Protection Conference
  • State Data Protection Commissioners
  • Data protection officers from individual companies
  • Works councils and entrepreneurs from companies of various sizes

Moreover, the advisory committee has occasionally integrated further external expertise in their consultations, in particular on the use of algorithmic systems and people analytics. The contributions by Prof. Dr Katharina Zweig from the Technical University of Kaiserslautern and Prof. Dr Hannes Federrath from the University of Hamburg were especially illuminating. The civil society perspective also played an important role in this context and was presented by the following experts:

  • Lothar Schröder, member of the Deutsche Telekom AG Supervisory Board and former member of the ver.di Federal Board
  • Sina Youn, Head of the Data Protection Working Group at the German AI Association and Senior Privacy & Technology Strategist at brighter AI, together with
  • Matthias Leister, Team Lead Legal and Senior Legal Counsel at personio GmbH
  • Matthias Spielkamp, co-founder and Managing Director of AlgorithmWatch

The advisory committee will continue consultations in further sessions in early 2021. The handover of the final report with recommendations for action to the Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs is planned for April 2021.

Published on 16 Jun 2020 on the topic: Employee Data Protection, last updated on 16 Dec 2021