From data protection to data sovereignty: informational self-determination in the digital society

Feat. Steffen Augsberg of Justus-Liebig-University Giessen | 3 May 2022

Although the fundamental right to informational self-determination in our democracy is still valid: the rules and demands of data protection are at least controversial. It is not only that consistent data protection can hardly be guaranteed in practice. It systematically fails because of non-transparent business models or the carelessness of consumers who thoughtlessly share their data and data traces. Moreover, the question increasingly arises whether data protection does not restrict citizens’ interest in actively using their personal data for their own and society’s benefit. If the alternative is only “protect” or “give away”, we cannot impose conditions on the use of our data. Nor can we invest it purposefully, let it work in a controlled way, as it were. Examples from medical research are obvious, for example when patients want to “donate” data in their own interest. And even beyond health issues, individuals are hindered or even prevented from participating in the potentials of big data. Collective interests can also hardly be linked to data sharing. Thus, new concepts of data sovereignty question classical data protection: instead of the idea of protecting and shielding, the motive of a responsible, productive and creative use of the data that we generate in our daily lives should come into play.

Prof. Dr. Steffen Augsberg teaches and researches at Justus Liebig University in Giessen and is a member of the German Ethics Council. The specialist on questions about the ethical implications of our constitutional rights is also a proven expert on the idea of data sovereignty. In this episode of “Digitalgespräch”, he explains the concepts concerned and how data protection and data sovereignty are related to the right to informational self-determination. With hosts Marlene Görger and Petra Gehring, he discusses where the development of data sovereignty as a new guiding paradigm could go, which questions arise about practical implementation, security and trust, and why data protection still remains an option – just not the only one.

Episode 21 of Digitalgespräch, feat. Steffen Augsberg of Justus Liebig University Giessen, 3 May 2022
Further informationen:

Link to the statement of the German Ethics Council on Big Data and Health:

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The podcast is in German. At the moment there is no English version or transcript available.