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DIVSI Study on Freedom Versus Regulation on the Internet

18. Dezember 2013

Freedom versus regulation on the Internet

In its relatively short life-time, DIVSI has already produced a range of acclaimed papers, studies and investigations. In these publications, we have often managed to address topical issues and problems of great relevance and importance while simultaneously providing solutions in the form of scientifically proven findings.

I am sure that this new study, „Freedom versus regulation on the Internet“, carried out by the renowned Allensbach Institute, will fully earn its place next to these previous studies.

But first a brief review. The DIVSI background study on trust and security on the Internet, the starting point of our representative investigations, examined with an almost hitherto unseen precision the motivations and attitudes of people living in Germany when it comes to their relationship with the Internet. The investigation also describes the expectations these people have in terms of safety and data privacy on the Internet.

The policy study conducted thereafter focused for the first time on decision-makers in the fields of economics, politics, the media, science and society. This investigation illustrated their thoughts, objectives and assessment regarding responsibilities in our digital world. Never before had it been so clear that those in power actually wish to „pass the buck“, so to speak, and shift responsibility for security on the Internet back to the users themselves.

Faced with this potential for conflict, it made sense to take another, closer look at the user perspective: How safe do Germans feel when using the Internet? How much freedom and self-regulation do they want? How much regulation is called for?

These are the questions that the „Freedom versus regulation on the Internet“ study focuses on. To do this, a survey was conducted among approximately 1,500 persons in October 2013, providing a detailed impression of how Germans use the Internet, and how they perceive the associated benefits and risks, alongside state and business-related influences.

Without setting out the results and findings at this stage, I would like to point out three issues that I found particularly interesting:

  • Germans are well aware of the benefits and opportunities offered by the Internet. At the same time, however, they are concerned about the risks faced by users of the Internet
  • As individual solutions, users predominantly use technical means of protection or seek to avoid any potential danger. In this, data analysis by companies that run online shops or search engines, for example, is viewed as a threat to freedom on the Internet
  • The state is also seen as having a protective role in the digital environment.

If the state is required to play a role, it must be considered what framework conditions are required to ensure that the state is able to exert influence here and what form this „binding leadership“ by the state would actually take in the digital world. But this immediately raises the question as to whether the state could ever meet this expectation. In any case, the users must not be left on their own; they must be taken seriously in their wish for „guardrails“ in the digital environment.

I hope that you find this DIVSI study „Freedom versus regulation on the Internet“ informative, and would be pleased to receive any critical observations.

Matthias Kammer, Direktor des Deutschen Instituts für Vertrauen und Sicherheit im Internet (DIVSI)

Matthias Kammer,


See the full study

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