In for­ce as of 1 Decem­ber 2021: the TTDSG and the “new” coo­kie rules

The new Telecom­mu­ni­ca­ti­ons and Tele­me­dia Data Pro­tec­tion Act (TTDSG) (only in Ger­man) com­bi­nes the data pro­tec­tion pro­vi­si­ons of the Telecom­mu­ni­ca­ti­ons Act (TKG) (only in Ger­man) and the Tele­me­dia Act (TMG) and ser­ves to imple­ment Euro­pean law requi­re­ments, par­ti­cu­lar­ly the ePri­va­cy Direc­ti­ve. The Act is to take effect on 1 Decem­ber 2021. Are com­pa­nies facing new legal chal­len­ges as a result? We pre­sent the changes.

New regu­la­ti­on for the use of cookies?

§ 25 of the TTDSG recei­ved the most atten­ti­on in public dis­cus­sion. This sec­tion con­tains regu­la­ti­ons for the sto­rage and use of data on users’ ter­mi­nal equip­ment. The requi­re­ments for the use of the­se coo­kies, for examp­le by ope­ra­tors of Inter­net sites, has a long histo­ry in Germany.

For a long time, it was dis­pu­ted whe­ther Ger­ma­ny was even ade­qua­te­ly imple­men­ting the requi­re­ments of the ePri­va­cy Direc­ti­ve in this regard. Arti­cle 5(3) the­re­of cla­ri­fies that the sto­rage of and access to infor­ma­ti­on on users’ end devices, usual­ly refer­red to as “coo­kies”, is gene­ral­ly only pos­si­ble if they give their pri­or con­sent or if the coo­kie is tech­ni­cal­ly abso­lute­ly necessary.

Howe­ver, Euro­pean direc­ti­ves that impo­se obli­ga­ti­ons on pri­va­te actors are not direct­ly app­li­ca­ble, but requi­re imple­men­ta­ti­on through natio­nal law. The rele­vant pro­vi­si­on in Ger­man law was found in the pre­vious­ly app­li­ca­ble § 15 III 1 of the Ger­man Tele­me­dia Act (only in Ger­man). Howe­ver, this ina­de­qua­te­ly reflec­ted the requi­re­ment of Arti­cle 5(3) of the ePri­va­cy Direc­ti­ve. The Federal Supre­me Court (BGH) the­re­fo­re used an inter­pre­ta­ti­on in con­for­mi­ty with the Direc­ti­ve and inter­pre­ted the pro­vi­si­on of the Tele­me­dia Act con­tra­ry to the wor­d­ing in the favour of the requi­re­ments of Euro­pean law. § 25 TTDSG now pro­vi­des cla­ri­ty here by clear­ly imple­men­ting the requi­re­ments of the ePri­va­cy Direc­ti­ve and also clo­se­ly fol­lowing the wor­d­ing of the Direc­ti­ve. With regard to legal cer­tain­ty, this is to be wel­co­med as oppo­sed to an inter­pre­ta­ti­on bey­ond the limits of the wording.

At the same time, howe­ver, this means that the legal situa­ti­on has remai­ned lar­ge­ly unch­an­ged from the sta­tus quo ante on this issue. Rather, the legal situa­ti­on alrea­dy estab­lis­hed by the so-called “coo­kie rulings” of the Federal Supre­me Court (BGH) was only set out more clear­ly. The TTDSG also does not spe­ci­fy any fur­ther exact­ly the con­sent must be structured.

Con­sent services

Howe­ver, § 26 TTDSG (only in Ger­man) con­tains a sur­pri­sing inno­va­ti­on. Accord­ing to this pro­vi­si­on, con­sent manage­ment ser­vices are per­mis­si­ble under cer­tain con­di­ti­ons. The­se per­so­nal infor­ma­ti­on manage­ment sys­tems (PIMS) allow for pri­or con­sent through an inde­pen­dent ser­vice. Via this, a user can spe­ci­fy in advan­ce which cate­go­ries of coo­kies he or she gene­ral­ly agrees to and under which con­di­ti­ons. The ser­vices tell the web­sites the set­tings they want. In per­spec­ti­ve, this could pro­ve to be an effec­ti­ve tool for stem­ming the tide of con­sent ban­ners that many per­cei­ve as a burden.

Howe­ver, accord­ing to § 26(2) TTDSG (only in Ger­man), the Federal Government would first have to spe­ci­fy more pre­cise requi­re­ments in a ordi­nan­ce with the appro­val of the Federal Coun­cil. In addi­ti­on, pro­vi­ders would have to be found who have the cor­re­spon­ding cer­ti­fi­ca­ti­on requi­red by § 26(1) TTDSG (only in Ger­man) car­ri­ed out for their service.

Exten­ded scope of application

One chan­ge that should be of inte­rest to pro­duct manu­fac­tu­rers con­cerns the scope of app­li­ca­ti­on of the regu­la­ti­ons. In a depar­tu­re from the ePri­va­cy Direc­ti­ve, § 25 TTDSG (only in Ger­man) does not refer to end devices, but to users’ ter­mi­nal equip­ment. Pur­suant to § 2(2)6 TTDSG (only in Ger­man), this term is defi­ned as any device con­nec­ted direct­ly or indi­rect­ly to the inter­face of a public telecom­mu­ni­ca­ti­ons net­work for the pur­po­se of trans­mit­ting, pro­ces­sing or recei­ving messages. The legis­la­ti­ve intent of this Act sta­tes that this wor­d­ing is inten­ded to cover a broad scope of app­li­ca­ti­on. The requi­re­ments of § 25 TTDSG  thus app­ly not only to Inter­net com­mu­ni­ca­ti­ons, but also to the use of net­wor­ked devices (Inter­net of Things) such as smart home devices.

Sum­ma­ry

For com­pa­nies, the intro­duc­tion of the TTDSG chan­ges litt­le. The regu­la­ti­ons on coo­kies have alrea­dy been app­li­ca­ble law up to now. It is wel­co­me that legis­la­tors want to enab­le the use of PIMS. Howe­ver, it is ques­tion­ab­le when and whe­ther such ser­vices will be used at all on the basis of § 26 TTDSG, espe­cial­ly sin­ce the TTDSG will be super­se­ded in the com­ing years by the Euro­pean ePri­va­cy Regu­la­ti­on, which has alrea­dy been in the works for some time. Howe­ver, com­pa­nies that have not yet ade­qua­te­ly imple­men­ted the requi­re­ments of the ePri­va­cy Direc­ti­ve should do so in a time­ly fashion.

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