Minister warns of growing might of Google, Facebook and Apple

German Consumer Minister Ilse Aigner on Monday warned of the growing power of internet companies like Google and Apple, as CeBit, the world’s biggest high-tech trade fair, prepared to kick off in Hannover.

Minister warns of growing might of Google, Facebook and Apple
Photo: DPA

“We’re living in a totally new dimension of global digitalisation,” Aigner told daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, adding that some internet companies now have enormous databases of users’ personal information.

“There is a pile of money to be made with the cross-linking and sales of private data,” Aigner said. “Branch giants like Facebook, Apple, Google or Microsoft could construct entire personality profiles online.”

The conservative consumer protection minister also welcomed a suggestion from Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière to provide citizens with a yearly report on their personal data saved online.

“Such a commitment from the providers could be a solution,” she told the paper. “Currently the consumers can only find out with difficulty who knows what about them.”

Aigner also rejected criticism that she is an enemy of the technology sector.

“As an electrical engineer I can only take pleasure in innovation. But everything has its boundaries,” she said. “Some developments, such as face recognition software for mobile phones with cameras to identify people on the street, send chills down my spine. Even George Orwell couldn’t have dreamt that up.”

Aigner’s comments followed similar concerns voiced by Germany’s federal data protection commissioner Peter Schaar last week. He called for a review of internet search engine company Google’s market dominance and said the company’s Street View mapping technology was a particular threat to privacy.

Chancellor Angela Merkel will officially open the CeBIT show on Monday evening with Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the prime minister of Spain, which is this year’s “partner country” at the trade fair.

Running from March 2 to 6, this year’s show focuses on ‘smart’ gadgets as well as “Avatar”-inspired 3D products in a bid to attract more consumers in addition to the traditional exhibitors from software and technology firms.

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