The New York Times reports that Germans are continuing to use products and services from Google, Facebook and Apple, even though there are questions about the companies’ privacy policies.
American technology companies are under close scrutiny in Germany. Google is being investigated for having errantly collected personal Internet information like e-mail passwords while doing research for its Street View mapping service.
Facebook is being investigated for collecting data on non-Facebook users from the mailing lists of active users. And Apple has been asked to explain what kind of information its latest iPhone 4 is storing on users and for how long.
Johannes Caspar, a data protection supervisor in Hamburg who is conducting the investigations into Google and Facebook, said his agency was trying to protect consumers from themselves. “The problem is that many people are unaware what is being done with their data,” he said.
Strict privacy laws are a product of the post-World War II reconstruction, when German lawmakers restricted the use of personal information to prevent the government from singling out citizens and persecuting them. […]
As of May, Googe controlled 92 percent of the online search market in Germany, compared with 65 percent in the United States, according to comScore, a research firm in Reston, Va.
Facebook has about 7.7 million users in Germany (which has a population of about 82 million), according to Inside Network, a research group in Palo Alto, Calif. All versions of the iPhone, including the iPhone 4, which went on sale in Germany in June, have sold out within days. Apple does not provide specific sales figures in Germany.
“What I think we have in Germany is a big disconnect between data privacy laws and consumer sentiment toward privacy,” said Felix Haas, the chief executive and founder of Amiando, a company in Munich that is the largest online event registration platform in Europe.