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What is Bundesdatenschutzgesetz? How to Comply with the German Data Protection Act

by Chris Brook on Thursday March 21, 2024

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Germany's Bundesdatenschutzgesetz (BDSG) has been around for decades but seen renewed attention over the past few years along with the global uptick in data privacy awareness. Learn about the data protection law and what it requires in today's blog.

As the world takes note of the tech sector's relentless progress and mounting innovations, nations have begun to place greater emphasis on its impact on their citizens.

This has brought about wide-reaching changes in how regulations are devised and consumer rights are upheld. Bundesdatenschutzgesetz is one such legal development in Germany, among numerous others. 

In this article:



Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

What is Bundesdatenschutzgesetz?

The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has highlighted the growing importance of customer-conscious decision-making in technologically driven enterprises, especially in Europe. 

However, interpretations of the GDPR by members of the EU are more fluid than those outside of the region may be aware of. 

As such, members of the European Union can enact their own laws to cover specifics left unmentioned in the GDPR, as well as issues that are unique to their nations. Germany has done exactly that with Bundesdatenschutzgesetz. 

Bundesdatenschutzgesetz is a data protection law governing all the ways that both private and public organizations should and should not use the personal information of German citizens.

What makes this law so important is the fact that it applies not only to German organizations but also to any organizations that control or process German citizens’ personal data. 

Bundesdatenschutzgesetz first came into existence as a data protection act passed in 1978. Since then, this German law has been updated and translated to English for international parties.

Below, we'll go over the key points you should know to comply with Bundesdatenschutzgesetz and some best practices to make accommodating this important act's legal stipulations easier.

Bundesdatenschutzgesetz Compliance Considerations for Private Companies

Understanding how Bundesdatenschutzgesetz works and how it could affect your business's operations is essential when dealing with consumer data of German citizens. Here are a few key compliance concerns you should know about.

Private Organizations Can Process Personal Data Under Certain Circumstances

As a private organization, you might not be barred from processing personal data in Germany. As long as processing such data satisfies certain requirements, it is considered legal and in compliance with Bundesdatenschutzgesetz. 

The requirements put forth by the law are:

  • Social Obligations - You are only processing personal data to meet certain social security or social protection obligations in the country.
  • Medical Purposes - Data is being processed for preventive medical purposes by professionals in the field. Public health scenarios fall under this umbrella as well.
  • Public Interest - There is a serious need to process personal data for public interest purposes.

Satisfying any combination of the above should guarantee compliance with Bundesdatenschutzgesetz in this regard.



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Personal Data can be Processed for Legal Purposes

In the event that your organization is called upon to provide legal evidence or substantiate legal claims using personal data, Bundesdatenschutzgesetz makes an exception. 

It is also legal to do so as a means of assisting with criminal prosecution measures.

Appointing a Data Protection Officer May be Required

If your organization employs more than 20 people on a consistent basis for the purpose of processing German citizens’ personal data or for overseeing systems that do so, then you will need to appoint a dedicated data protection officer (DPO) to comply with Bundesdatenschutzgesetz.

You should also appoint a DPO if you are engaged in commercially processing personal data for any purpose, regardless of the number of people you employ to do so.

For more information about this law, check out the following video:

Best Practices for Bundesdatenschutzgesetz Compliance

Adopting the following best practices will help your organization remain compliant with Bundesdatenschutzgesetz.

Establish Clear Working Hours

Clear working hours can be useful when collaborating with public federal entities, as they must legally be granted access to all official premises, data processing equipment, and information they need during normal operating hours if they request such access. 

Avoid Unauthorized Processing of Personal Data



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Allowing personal data to be misused or mishandled within your organization could invite hefty fines or jail time of up to three years in Germany.

The Bundesdatenschutzgesetz Act outlines a number of offenses of this nature that would bring about criminal liability, including making personal data commercially available without express permission as well as acquiring such data by fraudulent means.

Organizations should practice safe data handling and ensure individuals have an active say in what type of data is collected, as well as how long it is preserved. 

Accommodating laws like Bundesdatenschutzgesetz is a lot like abiding by those put forth in the GDPR. That’s why implementing a proven GDPR compliance solution like Digital Guardian can help to streamline your compliance efforts for Bundesdatenschutzgesetz, GDPR, and other data protection laws. Schedule a demo to learn how Digital Guardian can automatically identify GDPR- and Bundesdatenschutzgesetz-regulated data and protect that sensitive data in use, at rest, and in transit.   

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the German version of the GDPR?

The BDSG or "Bundesdatenschutzgesetz" could be considered the German version of the GDPR. It exists as a nation-specific legal framework for handling the misuse of personal data.

What is the data protection agency in Germany?

The data protection agency in Germany is known as The German Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (abbreviated as "BfDI").

What are the requirements for GDPR in Germany?

In Germany, the GDPR's requirements are similar to elsewhere in the EU. Organizations are expected to maintain clarity and transparency regarding their collection and use of personal data from citizens in the region.

Organizations are also expected to acknowledge and accommodate individuals' rights to be forgotten or take more active control of the information that has been gathered from them.

Tags:  Compliance Data Protection

Chris Brook

Chris Brook

Chris Brook is the editor of Digital Guardian’s Data Insider blog. He is a cybersecurity writer with nearly 15 years of experience reporting and writing about information security, attending infosec conferences like Black Hat and RSA, and interviewing hackers and security researchers. Prior to joining Digital Guardian–acquired by Fortra in 2021–he helped launch Threatpost, an independent news site that was a leading source of information about IT and business security for hundreds of thousands of professionals worldwide.

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