This dossier does not use the term ‘ethnic data’. Instead, it speaks of equality and participation data regarding a person’s origins (such as the external appearance, the language of origin, the cultural practices, etc.), their group membership or religious affiliation, and their – or their families – migration history. Given Germany’s heavily loaded history in which ethnical categorisation and data collection facilitated a Holocaust, it is hardly appropriate to speak of ‘ethnical data collection’. We therefore made the conscious decision to refrain from using this term.

Using the terminology of equality and participation data attempts to bring the goal of data collection to the forefront. These concepts move the attention away from the categorisation of the data object, and towards the aspired results: to dismantle barriers of participation, and equality before the law, as well as de facto equality in everyday life.

For that reason, this dossier will mostly mention the two terms in combination, unless a focus on one of the concepts is intended. The word ‘data’ generally refers to equality and participation data.

Data Protection

Personal data that attempts to represent ethnical categories, and which refers to political views, religious affiliation, or sexual orientation is considered ‘sensitive data’.

Such data is subject to specific data protection regulations, which is reflected in Privacy Law, on a national and an EU level. This law states that sensitive data may only be collected on a voluntary basis, and that only the interviewed person may make a categorisation. Categorisation by third parties is therefore legally excluded. In addition, sensitive data must be stored and used in an anonymous form.

The fact that this requirement is sometimes disregarded or circumvented does not principally speak against the collection of data. However, it does speak for the enforcement of existing rules – without compromises or restrictions. A misuse of these rules undermines the legitimate societal intention of putting equality into practice.

Even though there is strong opposition to recording a person’s ‘ethnic origins’ in Germany, the category ‘migration background’ can increasingly be found in surveys and statistics since the 2005 micro census. More details on what this entails can be found here.

Additional information on some of the institutions that include the category ‘migration backgound’ in their statistics or research can be found here.

In the following section, this dossier will discuss why, and for what purpose data should be collected and used. Collected data aims at the identification of problem areas in the context of (insufficient) equality. On the basis of these findings, measures to address discrimination mechanisms can be implemented in a targeted manner.

Additionally, quantiative data can sometimes serve as evidence in concrete cases of discrimination.

Furthermore, Germany is under the obligation to periodically submit sociological data, such as data regarding the composition of the population, to international organisations.