Between data protection and supporting innovation: The legal framework for Industrie 4.0

Cupola of the German Bundestag in Berlin
© fotolia/dfpstock

A sound legal basis is a prerequisite for the digitisation of the entire value chain

Innovation cycles are becoming shorter. Digital technologies are determining the way industry is developing. The transformation of industrial manufacturing also raises the question of whether and, when appropriate where, legal regulations need to be adapted. Legal provisions can only ensure security, create acceptance and encourage innovation if they keep up with the development of new business models. To achieve this, legal analyses should be carried out while new technologies are in the research and development phase – and not only after a product has been launched.

Personal and business-related data must not be misused

Data protection plays an important role in Industrie 4.0. This includes the protection of corporate data as well as the personal information of employees and customers. Intelligent objects continuously generate information that is transmitted and evaluated in factories, production areas and also across company boundaries. The evaluation of networked data also affects employees, since data relating to individual persons are also collected in this context. Practicable solutions are needed to ensure employees can determine how data relating to them are handled, especially in cases where companies cooperate beyond German jurisdiction. But not only employees are affected. Data protection is equally relevant for customers. They must be assured that the information systems embedded in products are not misused.

Questions concerning liability are closely linked to data protection: Who is responsible when data are stolen or when objects behave incorrectly within the network? Cooperating businesses should therefore, where possible, define the responsibilities of the various parties clearly in advance by contract. Safeguarding should be complemented with comprehensive documentation. Finally, companies cooperating across borders should clarify legal uncertainties – especially in the case of trade restrictions.

The legal framework and Plattform Industrie 4.0

New legal challenges, such as the protection of internal company data, liability questions and the issues relating to personal data, will be discussed within the framework of the platform by the legal framework working group.

Further information: Legal framework working group.