Tag Archives: Transborder Data Flow of Personal Data

DP history: Which was the first country to adopt a Data protection law?

Why did governments and legislatures thought that the personal information collected by different entities should be protected? When did they discover the society needs such regulations?

I will try to answer these questions in my new category “DP history”. I keep reposting news about countries which pass for the first time data protection legislation. But how about the ones that first discovered this need in their societies? So, I figured I should provide valuable information in this regard also.

I will start by answering the question “Which was the first country to adopt a Data Protection law?”.

The answer is Germany. Well, Germany was a “door opener” not only in nation-wide data protection regulation, but also in data protection law in general, as its land of Hesse adopted the first ever law with regard to the protection of personal data in 1970.

However, I will write today a few facts about the Federal law on the protection of personal data adopted by the German Parliament: Bundesdatenschutzgesetz.

It was as early as 1969 that the German Parliament requested the Government “to introduce without delay a statute regulating the computerized processing of personal information.”

The first draft of the Bill appeared in 1973, but it was not until November 10, 1976 that the Bundestag approved the Act on the Protection against the Misuse of Personal Data in Data Processing. The President of the Republic signed the definitive version on January 1, 1977.

However, in the intervening period a number of lander (German states) had passed laws on the protection of personal data as far as public bodies were concerned.

The Federal Act covers processing of personal data at Federal Level, at Land level to the extent that no Land regulation exists, and also data in the private sector.

So, it took about 8 years to transform the recognized need of protection personal data into law. But you will see tomorrow that in one European country it took 15 years! Why do you think such legislation was so problematic to be passed?

Source: A.C.M. Nugter, Transborder Flow of Personal Data within the EC, Springer, Olanda, 1990. You can find the book here:

Transborder Flow of Personal Data Within the EC (Computer/law series)