German telco wants “debate” on privacy

thorsten-dirks-fuehrtTelefonica Deutschland’s O2Dn.DE chief executive called for a debate about data privacy in Germany.

Well, when Thorsten Dirks says “debate” what he wants is a good way to monetise customer data and since German law will not let him, he wants to debate it.

Data privacy is a sensitive issue in Germany due to memories of Communist East Germany’s Stasi secret police and the Nazi era Gestapo.

Dirks said that while people are right to scrutinize any attempt to make money off their data, they are handing over data voluntarily to companies such as Google and Facebook.

He said this double standard among consumers was unfair, particularly as Telefonica Deutschland is sitting on a trove of data that Dirks said could be used for general purposes.

Dirks said he could use anonymised data on its 44 million mobile subscribers’ movements for crowd and traffic control as well as “many other areas that we cannot think of now “, Dirks said.

Telefonica Deutschland has created a start-up company called Telefonica Germany NEXT, which will bundle activities in big data and be a vehicle for new initiatives.

Dirks said Telefonica wants to be a platform for all devices connected to the internet, that processes all sorts of data coming from sensors in cars, electronic devices and household apparel.

Telefonica’s flirtation with big data comes as telecoms operators are looking for ways to expand their business beyond their infrastructure to avoid becoming so-called “dumb pipes”.

Telecoms executives in Europe have repeatedly complained that tech companies are stealing away their business while using the data and telecoms infrastructure in which they invested billions of euros.