What are different dates

Definition and differentiation of the terms data, information & knowledge

In everyday life, the data protection officer is often confronted with the terms data and information (perhaps also with knowledge), which are often used synonymously. In addition to the different meanings of the terms (e.g. in law, IT, business administration), there are also different types of data that can differ depending on the context and systems. How the terms data, information and knowledge are defined, what types of data there can be and whether these are personal, is explained in the following article.


A date (single number of dates) initially only represents a sequence of characters, although their meaning is not clear at first. The characters can consist of numbers, letters or symbols, for example.

Example: The number sequence can be found in the marketing department of an online shop: 150820161.

Although this sequence of characters represents a date, the meaning is not known.


However, information can arise from this date if the context in which the date is known is known. A combination of different data creates a relationship that can be interpreted. The data becomes information.

Example: In addition to the date 150820161, the following data is known to the marketing department: Customer Max Muster, item 150820161.

By adding additional dates, the original date becomes more important and can now be interpreted. The marketing department now knows that customer Max Mustermann has ordered an item with the number 150820161.


Knowledge, on the other hand, arises through thinking, i.e. through the linking of data or information, and is subjective. The data and information are subjectively interpreted by an employee of the marketing department.

Example: The marketing department now knows that Max Muster ordered the article with the number 150820161. This article is about a grill. The person in charge of the marketing department interprets the purchase as meaning that Max Muster likes to grill and could therefore also be interested in other grill utensils. The marketing department will send Max Muster advertisements with sausages and grill accessories by email.

Types of data or information

Furthermore, data and information can be cataloged, whereby there can be many possible classifications and differentiations. In particular, the subdivision depends on the context and subject in which they are used. Since the data protection officer has to deal not only with legal but also technical issues, the terms in the fields of law (BDSG, TMG, TKG) and business informatics (i.e. IT and / or business administration) are explained below.

Personal data in the BDSG and the GDPR

The BDSG uses the term "personal data" in Section 3 (1) and defines these as "individual details", whereas Article 4 (1) of the GDPR speaks of "information". In data protection, there are different terms that usually only appear in plural. So there is no distinction between a date, information or knowledge. The only decisive factor is the personal reference. In principle, all data that can somehow be linked to a person also fall under the concept of personal data.

Telemedia Act and Telecommunications Act

Inventory data

According to § 3 No. 3 TKG, inventory data is data of a subscriber that is collected for the establishment, content, amendment or termination of a contractual relationship via telecommunications services. A similar legal definition can also be found in § 14 TMG, which is not applicable to telecommunications services but to telemedia.

Example: When a contract is concluded, the provider must request data such as name, address, connection number, account data from the customer in order, for example, to be able to send necessary devices such as routers or the invoice to the customer. This data does not yet say anything about whether individual services were called up and / or provided.

Usage data

Usage data are regulated in § 15 TMG. This is data that a provider needs to enable the use of his telemedia service and to bill. Usage data is therefore generated with every interaction between the user and the service.

Example: If the user calls up a website by entering a URL in their browser, their IP address is transmitted. The IP address is therefore a date of use. In addition, other data such as browser type, pages visited, duration of the visit, which services were used, etc., can be transmitted. If this usage data is not linked to personal data (which is also required, for example, by Section 15 (3) TMG) ​​and the IP address is also anonymized, no personal data is available.

Traffic data

Closely related to usage data is the term traffic data, which relates to the technical process of providing telecommunication services. According to Section 3 No. 30 TKG, traffic data (also known as connection data) are data that are collected, processed or used during the provision of a telecommunications service. According to § 96 TKG, this includes, for example, the phone number, communication service (telephony, SMS, fax) or the beginning and end of the respective connection, date and time or the amount of data transmitted, if this is important for billing. Traffic data is also the data that should be stored after data retention. Although the content of the communication is not stored, some things can be read about the user using traffic data, e.g. with whom he has called and how often. Traffic data are considered personal data because they are mostly linked to the user.

Content data

The term content data is not legally defined. This is data that relates to the content of a communication.

Example: A contact form is implemented on a website, whereby the user can send his name, contact details and a message to the website operator via this form. These data are not required to enable the transmission, but rather to communicate with the service provider. So the focus is on the content. If content data is transmitted together with other data such as names, it is personal data. If only the content is transmitted without any personal reference, e.g. on an anonymous portal, content data cannot be personal.

business Informatics

In business informatics, data usually have a different meaning than in law. This is often the language of master, inventory and movement data, whereby the division can also be dependent on the context. What is master data in one application can be transaction data in another application.

base data

Master data is data that is stored long-term and is changed very rarely or hardly at all over time. So they have no time reference and are static.

Example: These include, for example, articles (individual articles are clearly identified by the article number and are not changed), customer data (can change due to moving or marriage, but this is more of an exception). Master data can be personal.

Inventory data

Inventory data includes all data that is constantly changing, with most of the time the quantity or values ​​change. These values ​​are changed by movement data during a (data processing) process.

Example: The stock data is mostly data on stock levels, as new items are constantly being added or removed from a warehouse. If an article is removed from the warehouse, this is recorded and noted by IT.
These data are unlikely to be personally related.

Movement data

Movement data arise from operational processes (transactions), which usually lead to changes in inventory data.

Example: If, for example, an article is removed from the warehouse, this removal represents a transaction. The movement data generated are the warehouse issues recorded in the EDP.
As with the inventory data, there will usually be no personal reference here either.


Data, information and knowledge can differ in meaning. However, they are often protected, be it through data protection or other requirements such as the new directive on the protection of confidential know-how and trade secrets.

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Agnieszka CzernikLawyer

Data protection and IT (security) serve to protect privacy and corporate values. Maintaining these interests and working in two diverse and interesting areas at the same time is my passion. more →

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