Mrs. Barley, your colleague at the Chancellery, Helge Braun, raves about apps that can be used to analyze liver spots and check for skin cancer. Would you let your health values be evaluated by an Artificial Intelligence (AI)?
Health is certainly one of the areas where AI opens up new possibilities. I am very open for it. I live near Trier in rural areas. There are a lot of problems with the medical care. Here, AI can help for sure. But my job in the government is always to point out the risks – that is the job of the fun brake.
In what way?
Because in addition to the Minister of the Interior, Horst Seehofer, who is also responsible for data security, I am the one who, from the consumer's point of view, keeps an eye on what happens to these data. This is especially true for the health sector because these data are the most personal we have. More than in any other area, security must be guaranteed here. This applies to how data is processed and stored, but also to how research can later anonymise and pseudonymize it.
Also Amazon has founded a health insurance.
When large corporations, which already know a lot about individual behavior, also get our health data, then we are soon really glassy people – and we do not want to be.
Can you ensure that Amazon's alleged Chinese Wall actually works?
For almost a year now, we have had a much sharper sword than we ever had with the General Data Protection Regulation (DSGVO). The regulation states that data may only be collected for the purpose necessary for the performance of the contract. For everything else, not only has to be asked extra, but also in the processing of the data are narrow limits. In addition, I would additionally look at the antitrust law.
How do you want to make antitrust law more digital?
When antitrust cases are examined, it is primarily about numbers such as the company's sales or customer size. I think that the aspect of the data needs to be taken more into account. It should not only be about the amount of data that a company uses, but also about what combinations can arise. With the merger of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram was not yet foreseeable how the user numbers would develop. Pooling Amazon's customer data with those of a health insurance company would be a much clearer example of such a worthy combination.
Do you trust the big companies?
No, such corporations are designed solely for profit maximization. There are only two things to grab with you, namely money and trust. That is why, first of all, we have to visualize and work through such transgressions when they happen. For this we must provide for severe penalties, as the DSGVO also does – the maximum fine payment provides for four percent of global annual sales, which would be on Facebook 1.6 billion euros, so also a lot of money for this group. And ideally, just for each of these giants, an alternative should be available. So it's also about breaking monopolies.
By a public Google?
Such suggestions are always a bit strange to me, because I come from a generation in which data protection was mainly claimed against the state. But there are other options, such as interoperability, which force monopolists to open up. That's technically feasible, especially with the messenger services.
Like WhatsApp, which also belongs to Facebook.
I'm not at WhatsApp, I do not want to be. But of course my children use the service and there are many chat groups that I would like to join. But if I could be on alternatives such as Signal or Threema and still participate actively in a WhatsApp or Facebook group, it would break up the monopoly status – and allow for consumer-friendliness. If a company such as Facebook runs away from customers in droves, they might be more likely to consider changing their privacy standards. Finally, when I send text messages, I can also send messages to everyone in a group, even if they have different mobile service providers. We need that here, too. I have also addressed this topic to (Facebook boss) Mark Zuckerberg.
Did you have the impression that he takes the concerns seriously?
I have the impression that, in view of the repeated data scandals among the responsible people, the realization prevails that things can not go on like this.
Does not it also play into the hands of corporations that Europe is so divided in digital politics? This is already starting in Ireland, where many of the tech companies have their European headquarters, and is now continuing with the digital taxation, where it is unlikely to come to a single European regulation?
The tax policy is again something other than privacy, because we have the unanimity principle …
… what you want to dissolve …
… which, in turn, requires unanimity. The GDPR took six years to complete, it is not perfect, but it is still a milestone. That Europe is in a position to say goodbye can not be overstated. If we can, we can do a lot more.
But is not the SPD facing an irresolvable contradiction? Digital taxation is at the very forefront of your program for the European elections, but it is now being introduced by Austria on its own initiative, while Finance Minister Olaf Scholz says he is relying on an OECD solution and putting a brake on it.
Olaf Scholz pioneered a Europe-wide digital tax together with his French counterpart Bruno LeMaire. The proposal was already so good that it could have been accepted – but four countries opposed it. Ireland was one of them, but so was a country like Sweden. Therefore, Scholz now takes the second step and sets a higher number, namely in the attempt to find a global solution via the OECD. If we create a minimum taxation that is not just digital, but includes the digital, that would be a big hit. There should be a proposal by 2020. If that fails, digital tax will be reintroduced across Europe, which suits us well, because we have the EU Presidency in the second half of 2020. The last resort would be a coalition of those willing to do the digital tax with us, similar to the Financial Transaction Tax.
Have you ever felt discriminated against by an algorithm?
That's the point – if you knew that. I often book flights on my mobile phone and sometimes decide very spontaneously. Each algorithm recognizes that I am ready to pay even relatively high prices. Whether in the end I will be treated worse than someone else, can only be found out by direct comparison. In the end it may even depend on which manufacturer their cell phone is.
You have had a lot of protest in terms of copyright reform and upload filter, was it worth it?
It is the task of politicians to take responsibility. This is a directive that has been negotiated for four years. Their goal was to strengthen the rights of creatives. With such a project many interests are touched. My position has always been the same from the beginning. I consider this article 13, which is now article 17, to be the right direction, but wrong in design. I have also done everything to modify or delete it. But in the end, it's about the entire reform of European copyright law.
How can we better manage algorithms?
I am committed to ensuring that corporations share their large amounts of data with the general public. Of course anonymized. For example, AirbnB and Uber data provide important insights for urban planning. Our idea is a European cloud that holds certain data that can then be used. That would be a model to break existing market power and facilitate research.
They will soon be no longer Minister of Justice. Can you promise that the national implementation of the controversial EU copyright directive will take place without so-called upload filters?
It was never my statement. But you can program differently what content is recognized and what is protected. The directive stipulates that the platforms must do everything they can to prevent copyright infringement and that unprotected content can not be blocked.
On another topic that is also being discussed emotionally, renting and living. What do you think of the Berlin expropriation plans in large housing companies?
I can understand that many people are taking to the streets. However, expropriations do not create new homes, take years and cost money that should be better invested in social housing.
Do not you hold a thick straw in front of your nose that will quickly crumble in reality?
The demand for expropriations is particularly popular in Berlin, because people here are unsettled by the developments in the rental market in recent years. We must invest more in social housing, for which we have changed the Basic Law, so that the federal government can co-finance. But above all, I find it unbelievable what some countries are doing – Hesse is canceling social housing construction and the Greens in Schleswig-Holstein announce the rent-price brake. At the same time Mr. Habeck speaks of expropriations.
The situation in Berlin will not improve that. There are other possibilities. The Federal Agency for Real Estate Tasks may, for example, give municipalities land at a preferential price. And if you look around in Berlin, you can see many parking lots or large single-storey supermarkets. Here is a huge potential.
Why would expropriation as Ultima Ratio not be considered per se?
The corresponding Article 15 of the Basic Law, to which the Berlin Initiative refers, has never been applied. As I said, expropriations do not solve the problem of lack of housing. Many countries and municipalities have in the past sold their public property across the republic. We need more social housing. This has a significant impact on the average rental price in a city.
You have your Berlin apartment terminated on 30 June, because you as a SPD top candidate change to Brussels after the European elections. What will you miss most about Berlin?
Unfortunately, in recent years, I have had little time and leisure to discover Berlin as I have planned. I like the Gendarmenmarkt at my Ministry – and my apartment. I wake up and hear the birdsong in the backyard. I will miss this combination of this colorful, lively city and this oasis at the same time.
Do you go to Brussels for every result?
Yes, of course.
Would you bet your convertible, the Karman Ghia, that you will get a better result than Martin Schulz 2014?
For every task I take on, I always give one hundred percent. That's what counts. Such questions always ask only journalists and not ordinary citizens.
Katarina Barley, born in 1968 in Cologne, is a German-British lawyer and politician. She studied law in Marburg and Paris and received her doctorate in 1998 in Münster. In 1994 she joined the SPD. At the federal election in 2013, she ran in Trier and moved with 31.1 percent of the first votes in the Bundestag. In 2017 she followed Manuela Schwesig as Federal Family Minister, in 2018 she took over the office of Federal Minister of Justice. Together with Udo Bullmann she was nominated by the SPD in October 2018 as a leading candidate for the European elections.