Road Traffic’s “Vision Zero” to also Apply to Data Traffic”: Continental

  • Data protection deficiencies: Continental prohibits use of WhatsApp and Snapchat with immediate effect
  • Technology company considers it the duty of IT companies to ensure that data protection is a core component of software
  • Continental’s CEO Dr. Degenhart: “Security, protection and frugality when it comes to handling data are core principles in the development of products and services at Continental”

The technology company Continental is prohibiting its employees from using social-media apps like WhatsApp and Snapchat in its global company network, effective immediately. In the company’s opinion, these services have deficiencies when it comes to data protection, as they access a users’ personal and potentially confidential data such as contacts, and thus the information of third parties who are not involved. In the case of these apps, access to the contact list cannot be restricted. The responsibility for complying with data-protection laws is therefore shifted onto the users of these apps. The risks this poses in terms of data protection are not ones the company is willing to take. Furthermore, the company wants to protect its own employees and business partners.

“For us, the security of technologies and the trust users place in them have a high priority. We are working on eradicating road-traffic accidents and are therefore calling for such a “Vision Zero” for data traffic as well,” said Continental’s CEO Dr. Elmar Degenhart, adding: “We think it is unacceptable to transfer to users the responsibility of complying with data protection laws. This is why we are turning to secure alternatives.”

“Data is an obligation,” added Degenhart in view of Continental’s strategy: “Technology providers, in particular, must make it as easy as possible to ensure compliance with data protection laws. Technology leaders, in particular, have a major responsibility in this regard. This is why data protection is definitely not just an optional extra for us, our products, our services and our processes. This fundamental attitude will strengthen global trust in new, data-based mobility services in the long term.”

Continental has been monitoring the business practices of certain software and IT service providers with concern. “Functional restrictions and hurdles that make it difficult to comply with data protection laws erode people’s trust in technologies,” said Degenhart, who calls for “priority for trust and security” in general when it comes to the development of technologies.

Protecting business interests, employees and business partners

For some time now, data protection authorities and courts, particularly in Germany, have expressed their serious concerns about the social-media apps’ compliance with the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – which has been enforceable since May 25, 2018 – and with other data protection laws. In Continental’s opinion, these apps often shift the responsibility onto the user. To meet the requirements of the GDPR, each user would, in the case of WhatsApp, need to get the permission of each person in their contact list in order to share their data with these services.

For Continental, this solution does not seem to be feasible and is therefore not suitable for use. To protect its business interests, employees and business partners, the technology company has therefore decided to ban the use of current versions of the social-media apps WhatsApp and Snapchat. Continental is prepared to lift this ban if the providers change the basic settings to ensure that their apps comply with data-protection regulations by default.

“Vision Zero” for roads and for the data highway – no chance of data leaks

Continental is working on having a future with no road-traffic accidents. This “Vision Zero” must also apply to the data highway. Security, protection and frugality when it comes to handling data are core principles of our business. Personal data is not a fundamental requirement for connected, automated and autonomous driving. For most applications, anonymous data is entirely sufficient,” explained Degenhart. The “privacy by default” principle ensures that the strictest privacy settings are applied automatically without the user having to do anything. The advanced driver assistance system from Continental, for example, is therefore not interested in the license plate of the car in front.

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