Why is the police sometimes called 12
"Information desk! Police!"
It has been shown here and there that the government does not always take data protection very seriously.
But of course the police are also bound by law, which the individual officer does not always seem to know. Especially when it comes to requests for information from employers, every means seems to be right to obtain the desired information ...
It came to pass, however, that a public servant set out to scare a department head. He did this by asking whether a certain employee was in the house.
The request was not only made emphatically but also on the phone, which caused the department head not to give any information about the employee. On the other hand, this led to a lack of enthusiasm and the decision to visit the employer in person.
The mood on site did not improve when the department head asked for the ID card despite the uniformed and meanwhile furious counterpart. The latter then threatened to search all the premises for the employee or to take the department head into custody if he defends himself. After all, he still gets money from the “coveted” employee.
Of course, he did not present the ID. But despite all these threatening gestures, the department head remained tough and gave no information about the employee - and rightly so ...
The information on the phone
... should never be given without prior authentication, i.e. proof of the claimed property.
The head of department in the example described was therefore completely right to refuse to provide information on the phone. After all, when you receive an external call, you don't know who is actually on the other end. And unauthorized data transfer can result in a fine of up to 300,000 euros for the responsible body (here the employer) (Section 43 BDSG).
The legal basis
Regardless of telephone or personal inquiries: As always, the prohibition with reservation of permission also applies in this special case, i.e. everything that is not expressly permitted is forbidden. In the present case, this in turn means that the uniformed police officer also needs a legal basis to collect data about a specific person (Section 4 BDSG).
The request for information also corresponds to data collection, i.e. the acquisition of data (for the police officer for the first time). So the police officer has to be able to present something: e.g. an arrest warrant or simply a written request for information with a corresponding legal basis. In the latter case, of course, the legal basis must also be the right one. However, there is likely to be no legal basis for a police officer to want to collect his (alleged) private debts.
... go nowhere. The police also need a search warrant (Section 105 StPO) to check all the premises - or at least there is imminent danger. In the event that neither is available, the police are also liable to prosecution for trespassing (Section 123 StGB).
The situation is similar with the threatened “joint detention” - because this ultimately describes a means of coercion for enforcement in court proceedings (Section 70 of the Code of Criminal Procedure). But even if the police officer should only have made a promise here, he also needs a legal basis for this in all other cases of deprivation of liberty (Article 104 of the Basic Law).
The bottom line
Even if the police would like to have it that way sometimes - nothing else applies to them than to any other: A data collection from a data subject always requires a legal basis. And refusing to share personal information over the phone is not only brave, but right too.
If in doubt, you should always contact the data protection officer in these cases - so it's good to have one ...
About the author
The contribution was made by Dr. Data protection written. Our employees, who are usually lawyers with IT skills, publish articles under this pseudonym. more →
As experts in data protection, IT security and IT forensics, we advise companies across Germany. Find out more about our range of services here:
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