German safety tech industry gains momentum

Through legislation, awareness raising by media and NGOs, and a great working relationship with the UK, the German safety tech sector has established itself as a key player in the global rise of safety tech.

Recognising the need to prevent online harms, German companies and organisations have pushed forward to develop their safety tech sector. The UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Department for International Trade (DIT) are supporting the development of safety tech in Germany through a series of activities and events, and a series of UK-German ‘#TechforGood’ talks, hosted by Impact Hub Berlin and British Embassy Berlin, which examine how technology can drive much needed change to prevent online harms. 

The ‘#TechforGood’ series followed a UK-German roundtable discussion between DIT, DCMS and the North Rhine Westphalian Cyber Crime Agency ZAC, aimed at furthering safety tech collaboration between the two countries. The roundtable established: 

  • A shared objective of raising awareness of online harms between the two countries
  • A recognised need for innovative technology to help law enforcement tackle issues online 
  • That a UK-German collaboration can support the growth of the safety tech sector in Germany 

More from the roundtable session can be read online. 

Frank Ambos, Senior Trade Advisor for DIT, is one of the leading voices in the emerging German safety tech sector. Frank works with UK safety tech organisations to export products and services to Germany and promotes the importance of safety tech to German organisations. On the UK-German relationship, Frank says: “It is an important and exciting time for the German safety tech sector. Both Germany and the UK understand the urgency of acting now to prevent online harms in their many forms and have an opportunity to work together, sharing knowledge and tech solutions, to show to the rest of the world how we can all partner to create a safer space online.

“While the German sector has progressed in the last year, with media raising awareness bringing the issue to the front covers, and legislation, including the requirement for German platforms to remove harmful online content within 48 hours or risk prosecution, the UK’s tech companies have some great products and services that Germany is currently lacking. By bringing these products and services to Germany, we hope to provide organisations with solutions to tackle online harms.”

International cooperation to combat online harms

Germany’s introduction of legislation to prosecute those creating and sharing harmful content online is ahead of other countries around the world.

Marie Nietan, Head of Media Policy at Bitkom, shares why legislation and regulation is important, and why cross-country collaboration is needed to tackle online harms: “What is crucial to the success of combating online harms is – above all – European, if not international, cooperation and coherence of measures and strategies. Online harms doesn’t stop at national borders and neither should our efforts in combating them. 

“The fight against online harms in Germany is currently focused on deletion of content by providers of online platforms. Of course, this is one very essential and necessary tool but we are lacking a more holistic strategy. We need multiple, individual solutions for different platforms, systems, applications, devices and types of content. This is why it is important that a diverse ecosystem of safety tech providers flourish in Europe.

“It is important that technology is not only perceived as an accelerator of online harms and, therefore, a risk to users, which it undoubtedly also is, but at the same time as a crucial instrument to contain those online harms.”

The sharing of tech solutions

An example of the UK-German collaboration to positively impact online safety in Germany comes in the form of SafeToNet’s takeover of 77 German high street mobile phone stores. In March this year, the company acquired the stores, which will be branded as SafeToNet Family stores, with the aim of providing ‘safe out of the box’ smart phones and tablets targeted at parents. 

John-John Brandis-Arntzen, Head of Marketing & Business Development EMEA, SafeToNet, says: “As a B2B, we were frustrated by the slow progress of MNOs adopting safety tech so the acquisition of the mobile phone stores gives us more control at the point of sale. Our mission is to ensure that safety tech solutions are automatically included when buying technology for children.” 

“These stores have been created to provide a tangible space for parents to have a conversation with experts about what can be done to safeguard their children, while also providing technology that is safe to use and complies with regulation. There is now no clear line between a child’s life online and their life offline and, with harmful actors frequently targeting young people, it’s important to provide a safe space for children to explore online. That’s why we’ve created these stores, to have open conversations on how to keep children safe and to then provide parents with the tools needed to keep children safe.” The SafeToNet Family stores are the first of their kind in the world. 

There is a continued need for growth in awareness of the safety tech sector in Germany as a sector separate from cyber security. An ongoing relationship between the UK and Germany will continue to support the growth of the sector, and the UK-German collaboration is key to setting out the foundations for other countries to come together to combat online harms.

To join the conversation on UK-German safety tech collaboration, join the UK-Germany Safety Tech Network LinkedIn group.

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