Data protection authorities in Germany


The Federal Republic of Germany is a federation of 16 states which are not just provinces but states with their own original sovereign rights and legislative responsibilities. The supreme power of the State is divided between the federal and the state governments. The federal system of government also affects the supervision of data protection. In Germany, there are a number of different authorities that are responsible for making sure that data protection laws and regulations are complied with.

Supervision over the private sector

Data protection supervision in the private sector comes under the responsibility of the states. However, there is one exception: the telecommunications and postal services companies. Those firms are monitored by the federal government which has assigned that task to the Federal Data Protection Commissioner.

In most states the supervision is exercised by the Data Protection Commissioners, e.g. in North Rhine-Westphalia. A business company is supervised by the authority that has jurisdiction over the district where the company has its headquarters. To find out which supervisory authority is responsible for monitoring observance of data protection laws and regulations in the private sector in the German states, please click here for our list of data protection supervisory authorities.


Supervision over the public sector in the states

In Germany, by far the major part of administrative tasks and activities are performed at state level, and supervision of compliance with data protection provisions is a state government responsibility. This function has been assigned to independent supervisory authorities, viz. the data protection commissioners. The State Commissioner for Data Protection is responsible for supervision over the state's public authorities and organisations including local government authorities. Click here to see the list of addresses of the German states' Data Protection Commissioners.

In North Rhine-Westphalia, supervision of the public sector comes under the responsibility of the North Rhine-Westphalia Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information. Public bodies in North Rhine-Westphalia for instance include the ministries, the youth welfare offices, the police, schools, municipal hospitals, savings banks, the Chambers of Industry and Commerce etc. Furthermore, the Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information also supervises the State Parliament, the courts and the public prosecution services in North Rhine-Westphalia in so far as those institutions fulfil administrative functions.

Supervision over federal authorities and organisations

Obedience to data protection laws and regulations by federal authorities and other public bodies under federal government control is monitored by the Federal Data Protection Commissioner. Public organisations that are within the Federal Data Protection Commissioner's remit include, inter alia, the Federal Ministries, the Federal Employment Agency and other federal agencies, the Federal Border Police, and the German Federal Police.


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