internet law

WhatsApp, German law and the digital transformation

It is not easy in our country. In business, we talk about the internet becoming more and more important if you want to compete. But what about the legal situation? Do you know that there is no internet law? No, there really isn't. But still, the internet and communication media are not a lawless space. We have many individual laws such as copyright, DSGVO, liability law, domain law, press law, general civil law, telemedia law and many many more. All these individual laws play a role in handling and dealing with the internet and electronic communication media.

And now we come specifically to WhatsApp. I'm sure you love this messenger too. It's so easy to send messages, quickly arrange something and / or make an appointment. Unfortunately, you may not be aware that you are violating German law by using this messenger. Theoretically, you would have to ask every WhatsApp contact for consent first. This is what the local court in Bad Hersfeld said in a ruling of 15 May 2017 in a custody dispute.

An extract from the judgment:

AG Bad Hersfeld, 15.05.2017 - F 120/17 EASO

Guidance sentence:

Duty of parental supervision, control and prevention of dangers with digital 'smart' media (smartphones, tablets, apps, messenger services) as well as clear agreements and guidelines on family media use.

Guiding principle:

If parents give their underage child a digital 'smart' device (e.g. smartphone) for their own permanent use, they have a duty to properly accompany and supervise the child's use of this device until the child reaches the age of majority.

If the parents themselves do not have sufficient knowledge of 'smart' technology and the world of digital media, they must acquire the necessary knowledge immediately and continuously in order to be able to fulfil their duty to accompany and supervise properly throughout.

There are no reasonable grounds for allowing a child to use a smartphone even during the designated bedtime.

On the necessity of a parent-child media use agreement in the case of significant misconduct in media use by the child as well as by one parent and emerging risk of media addiction

Anyone who uses the messenger service "WhatsApp" continuously transmits data in clear data form from all contact persons entered in their own smartphone address book to the company behind the service, according to the technical specifications of the service.

Anyone who allows this continuous transfer of data by using "WhatsApp" without first having obtained permission from his or her contacts from his or her own telephone address book commits an offence against these persons and puts himself or herself in danger of being warned by the persons concerned with costs.

If children or adolescents under the age of 18 use the messenger service "WhatsApp", the parents as legal guardians have the duty to inform their child about this danger when using the messenger service and to take the necessary protective measures in the interest of their child.