Do privacy protection laws within Germany/EU protect students from gross invasions of privacy? I have reason to believe that through some either permitted or unsanctioned channel my teacher was able to information about my criminal history [Editor's note: OP does not note if his legal record is public record in his former country] and my Internet browsing history. In addition, she publicly exposed this information to my classmates.

Under EU/German laws is such action forbidden as an invasion of privacy? Do I have any recourse or way to report this? Does it matter than I recently moved to Germany [Editor's note: not clear how long he has been here and any other EU/Germany citizenship conditions]

closed as off-topic by Gilles, goodguys_activate, Adi, Xander, Ayrx Sep 8 '13 at 7:17

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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about purely legal aspects of privacy. Also, the answer would depend on many details that are not provided and that you would probably not want to reveal publicly. – Gilles Sep 7 '13 at 22:13
  • OP: I modified your question to remove all of the personal details that are not a good fit here. Please see the editor's notes and fill in the key details that may help is direct you to a useful source. Please all check out the Help/FAQ on how questions should work here. – Eric G Sep 7 '13 at 23:14
  • If you are a student at a university in Germany, BDSG [Bundesdatenschutzgesetzt] does not apply. Since a university or a school is a public organisation, the LDSG [Landesdatenschutzgesetz] or your respective state [Bundesland does apply]. Please contact the Landesamt für Datenschutz or Landesbeauftragter for Datenschutz of your state. – SteAp Sep 8 '13 at 22:21
  • Additionally, please note, that once a certain piece of information made available by YOU to the public, this information no longer has a privacy protection privilege. While copyright laws may still protect you intellectual property, re-publishing this information again wouldn't break privacy laws. – SteAp Sep 8 '13 at 22:23
  • First of all, write a formal/written letter to the chancellor [Kanzler/Präsident] of the university and the privacy officer of the university [Datenschutzbeauftragter] and request a written answer of your case: - Who has gained which information from whom? - Who passed it along to a third party? | In general, german univerities do no background scans of their students. German privacy laws do definitely forbid such investigations. – SteAp Sep 8 '13 at 22:29

I would reach out to a lawyer in Germany who is very familiar with local law and the EU Data Privacy Directive. No one here is qualified to give a legal opinion and as @Gilles mentions in his comment, there are probably other details. I am also not sure if there are implications with European citizenship (which if you just moved into the EU/Germany you likely do not yet have) and the scope of the protections offered in Europe.

From my personal experience, this sounds little out of character, as many European companies will not perform background checks for fear of being sued on privacy invasion grounds.

I would start with the The Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information with the Data Protection Acts node here. There seems to be a lot more information available in German than in English, so this site may be more helpful if you are fluent in German. I'm pretty sure there is an lawyer or legal office you can contact for more information on this issue.

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    "…many European companies will not perform background checks for fear of being sued on privacy invasion grounds"? Well, that doesn't stop German companies from frequently screening their current and future employees, as well as doing background checks. Also, it's common practice for German companies (from small callcenters up to large financial institutions) to ask you to provide your own criminal records (= "Polizeiliches Führungszeugnis") before they even think about offering you a contract. Same goes for the Netherlands and Belgium. Your personal experience certainly was unique. ;) – e-sushi Sep 8 '13 at 7:12
  • Well I'll take it from a German on this then. I had a few German based clients in the past when doing audits in the US and they noted that the background checks they did on US employees they did not do back in Germany for fear of lawsuits, etc. Is screening a reference check or a full blown credit check, criminal history check, etc. Asking you to provide your own criminal records would indicate that they cannot get them on their own, no? – Eric G Sep 8 '13 at 15:23
  • @e-sushi is this link accurate? mondaq.com/x/223790/Contract+of+Employment/… --> "The principle of direct inquiry: As a rule, personal data must be collected directly from the person in question, i.e., the applicant..." – Eric G Sep 8 '13 at 15:26
  • @e-sushi also this: whoswholegal.com/news/features/article/29116/… – Eric G Sep 8 '13 at 15:32

First up, while I live and work in Germany and do have some insights in the "privacy" status quo, I am not a lawyer and can therefore not give you any legal advice. I can only share my personal points of view.

Having said that, let's dive in:

  1. I doubt your teacher presented the browsing history of your home computer. If he/she presented the browsing history of one or more computers at the university/school, that's absolutely OK, since they are property of the university/school. If you look through the legal documentation you've signed, you'll discover that they will have reserved all rights related to the materials and machines they provide. This covers the browsing histories of all their computers too.

    I don't see any "gross privacy invasion" there.

  2. Public records are public... which is also true in Germany.

    I don't see any "gross privacy invasion" there either.

  3. As for non-public records, the options depend on the kind of party that retrieves the record.

    Let's take a university… it's common practice for them to share the non-public information they gain (from the state and/or it's institutions) with the profs who teach you. While such non-public information should (as in "optional") remain confidential, it can (as in "optional") be used under certain circumstances (eg: to represent a practical example) as long as there's nothing negative in your records. If - on the other hand - your criminal records show you have a criminal history, sharing that information is - in most cases - a direct violation to privacy-related laws.

    Depending on your own feel, you should clear related doubts by asking a German lawyer. They don't ask too much for a counseling (in German: "Beratungs-Stunde") and they give you a legally secured perspective on what happened and what you can or can not do about it.

    You'll need a lawyer if you want to do anything legal in a privacy-violation case, as you really need to be sure your privacy has indeed been invaded. Also, any related legal battle will be long and based on "hard proof" only. This means that you have to collect evidence, signed reports by witnesses, etc. as soon and as many as possible.

In the end, it's up to you what you decide to do. Depending on the details, a lawyer may very well be able to help you. Yet, remember that there's not much money in "damages" to gain here in Germany. So it could be that you sue them for years… only to win a costly "sorry" and a handshake.

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