Consumers in the Net

Consumers in the net

This project, set up by order of the Ministry of Health and Consumer Protection, focused on three consumer-related aspects of the "information society": the future of the universal service, aspects of data security, and the question of self-determination in the IT environment (privacy).


International discussion of the development of a universal service concept focuses at present on the restructuring of tariffs as a consequence of liberalisation and the danger of eroding traditional financing mechanisms through cross-subsidies - in other words costs and financing. At the same time a wider approach to the concept is also being considered. This is based on an analysis of the weaknesses of the present universal telephone service (analysis of group-specific penetration rates, disconnections, etc.), but also includes new service components (forwarding of calls, etc.). While the inclusion of new services or technologies is currently not being considered - because of the lack of demand and the costs involved - universal services with their tradition of individual access are being extended through the setting up of public access points to new services. In Europe at least, however, this discussion does not go far enough, as apart from the introduction of new services, the question of extending the principles on which the universal service is based (full coverage, non-discrimination, reasonable pricing) should also be addressed so as to safeguard the right to free choice, data security and protection of privacy.

As far as data security is concerned, effective cryptographic processes ensure reliable data transmission, authenticity of communication sources, and protection against abuse. In spite of the justified government interest in controlling data communication for the purpose of crime prevention, the protection of fundamental rights is more important. Therefore cryptographic processes should not be prohibited by law.

The question of privacy involves two aspects: the right to control personal information, and the right to be left in peace. The more the different areas of life (work, education, entertainment, consumption, etc.) are integrated, and the greater the number of suppliers of services, the greater the danger of abuse of the data involved in these transactions. Apart from legal mechanisms outlawing the generation of personal profiles, further measures are required to protect against illicit access and to provide the user with the possibility of verifying the authenticity of communications on request.

01/1995 - 12/1995