German government proposes law to hold businesses liable for human rights negligence

12 Feb 2019

The German development ministry proposed a legal framework that provides mandatory human rights due diligence for German companies. The initiative was welcomed by CoRa, a network for corporate accountability with more than 60 development, human rights, environmental, consumer organisations and trade unions. According to CoRA, human rights diligence cannot be protected on a voluntary basis. Businesses should mandatorily take measures to prevent activities that provoke human rights violations. Liability and appropriate sanctions are key elements to enforce human rights in this context. In addition, companies should embrace the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, and report on their risk analyses, measures of mitigation and remedies.    

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Privacy and data protection are two interrelated Internet governance issues. Data protection is a legal mechanism that ensures privacy. Privacy is usually defined as the right of any citizen to control their own personal information and to decide about it (to disclose information or not). Privacy is a fundamental human right. It is recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and in many other international and regional human rights conventions. The July 2015 appointment of the first UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age reflects the rising importance of privacy in global digital policy, and the recognition of the need to address privacy rights issues the the global, as well as national levels.

Intermediaries play a vital role in ensuring Internet functionality. In several Internet governance areas, such as copyright infringement and spam, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are considered key online intermediaries. In other areas, such as defamation and the so-called right to be forgotten, the responsibility extends to hosts of online content and search engines.

Consumer trust is one of the main preconditions for the success of e-commerce. E-commerce is still relatively new and consumers are not as confident with it as with real-world shopping. Consumer protection is an important legal method for developing trust in e-commerce.

 

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