Various personal data of registered entrepreneurs can be freely accessed via the handelsregister.de portal. In an electronic petition to the Bundestag, the legislature is now asked to do so, to determine the data protection of this data and to take preventive measures for the portal. By this, the petitioner means that there is an obligation to register for the query, and personal data must also be withheld. The petition can be signed until December 20, 2022. If it has been supported 50,000 times by then, it will be heard in a plenary session of the Bundestag’s Petitions Committee.
Since August 1, 2022, all entries in the commercial, cooperative, partnership and association register can be viewed and downloaded at handelsregister.de using a web form without registration and fees. Freely retrievable documents often contain sensitive personal data such as addresses, dates of birth, bank details or signatures, as reported by c’t.
In a short report commissioned by the association “Die Familienunternehmer”, legal researcher Benedikt Bauer found that the online portal should not be contacted as long as sensitive data is freely accessible. The Federal Ministry of Justice and the data protection officers have a different opinion. Data was already recorded on this form and could be accessed online before August 1, but registration was still required for the query and a fee was due. Although official bodies share the concern that the data could be misused, it must be preserved due to an EU directive.
Inventories, employee lists, license plates and bank details are openly accessible
Currently, only those affected can go to the competent courts, which make entries in the Commercial Register, if they want to make changes. The online petition aims to change that. In addition to personal data, confidential documents with detailed inventories, personnel lists, vehicle registration numbers and bank details can also be accessed openly via handelsregister.de. Criminals can also use it for identity theft, for example. In addition, not only company-related data is published, but also a lot of personal data that particularly needs protection, but which is not required for commercial registry information purposes.
The information contained in the commercial register serves to ensure the legitimacy of business partners, and to protect legal transactions and trust, as described in the petition. This also applies to certain personal data of the Company’s founders, shareholders, former shareholders, managing directors, authorized signatories, deceased persons, and employees. “In many cases, particularly in older entries, there is no consent whatsoever from those affected, and one simply assumes they are fictitious,” the petition says. But this conflicts with the fundamental right to informal self-determination.
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