Participating In and Shaping Digitalization

  • NfS: Customer-related Matters and Respect for Human Rights

As a leading European internet specialist, United Internet sees its role as building bridges to a digital future. Our goal is to offer consumers and companies greater and greater bandwidth for internet access and powerful cloud applications. In this way, we can provide full access to the numerous opportunities offered by the internet as a universal infrastructure for information, communication, entertainment, and e-business.

United Internet wants to contribute actively to ensuring that nobody – regardless of their age, education, or origin – is left behind on the road to digitalization, and to give them the space and opportunity to roam the internet safely and confidently.

The Company has a particular responsibility here, especially in view of 1&1 AG’s new role as Germany’s fourth mobile network operator. As a new entrant to the field, 1&1 has opted for state-of-the-art technology and is building the first fully virtualized mobile network in Europe to be based on the new OpenRAN technology. This innovative cloud-native network architecture enables real-time speeds and ensures independence from dominant network equipment manufacturers. 1&1 has selected OpenRAN pioneer Rakuten as its partner for its active network infrastructure. A new entrant on the Japanese market, this company successfully rolled out the world’s first virtual mobile network. 1&1 has ambitious goals to expand its network: It intends to provide coverage for 1,000 base stations by the end of 2022, while 25% of German households should have rapid mobile access by the end of 2025 and 50% of households by the end of 2030. This corresponds to the requirements set out by the Bundesnetzagentur (the Federal Network Agency), which 1&1 signed up to on successfully participating in the 5G frequency auction in the summer of 2019. 1&1 wants not only to comply with these goals, but in fact to exceed them.

  • NfS: Risk Prevention

Designing mobile communications to be secure and reliable is an absolute precondition, and this also applies to the new network architecture in 1&1’s O-RAN. We performed extensive risk assessments together with our partners and are implementing a security management system that is certified in accordance with ISO 27001. We comply with all key elements of the recommendations regarding the security of OpenRAN mobile networks issued by the BSI (Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security), and are in close contact with the authority on this. In addition, 1&1 is a member of the international O-RAN Alliance, whose expert bodies analyze the security of OpenRAN technology in depth, and continuously enhance it.

Following the successful 5G auction, 1&1 and the established network operators – Telefónica Deutschland, Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom – signed an agreement with the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) and the Federal Ministry of Finance (BMF) to build mobile phone base stations in “white spaces.” By doing so, the company will help close gaps in coverage in rural areas in particular: Constructing large number of masts will contribute to improving mobile phone reception in these regions. In return, 1&1 can transfer the license fees payable for the frequencies to the federal government in installments until 2030. This step illustrates the benefits of cooperation for both consumers and network operators.

What is more, the Consumer Access Segment enables a wide range of customers to participate in the process of digitalization thanks to 1&1 AG’s broad portfolio, which covers everything from premium to discount rate plans.

Additionally, the Consumer Applications Segment with the GMX and WEB.DE portals’ freemail variants offer free e-mail and cloud services, plus associated product innovations such as our intelligent mailbox function, the netID log-in standard, or the advance letter mail notification introduced in 2020 in cooperation with Deutsche Post AG. Registered users can use this free e-mail service to be alerted to incoming letter mail. Since March 2021, a digital copy service has also been available on request free of charge in addition to the advance letter mail notification. With it, users not only receive a photo of the envelope up front by e-mail but also the contents of the letter are provided in advance as a PDF attachment to the notification e-mail. This applies in particular to deliveries that were already sent to Deutsche Post AG in digital form by the sender. Express one-time consent on dispatch and receipt of the letter is a precondition for using the service.

“Our customers were extremely enthusiastic about the advance letter mail notification. This was the first step towards linking the physical and digital worlds with one another. Now the digital copy takes this idea to the next logical level, making the contents of letter mail available directly via WEB.DE and GMX. As a result, users can collate all relevant information from companies and public authorities in a single, central location for the first time. This means that letter mail can now also make use of the benefits offered by electronic communication: Recipients have a rapid overview, can search for and archive documents easily, and the smartphone e-mail app means that they always have their personal mailboxes with them.”

Jan Oetjen, CEO 1&1 Mail & Media Applications SE.

All these measures are ways of implementing digital participation. Today, the availability of affordable internet access options is seen as vital for achieving economic and social development, and even for exercising human rights.(1)

(1) See e.g., the Bitkom article (German only) dated November 24, 2019.

Freely Accessible News Sources

The Company’s GMX, WEB.DE, and 1&1 portals offer users not only e-mail and cloud services but also unrestricted access to content from their own, independent editorial team. 10% of German internet users use GMX and 11% use WEB.DE as a source of news on a weekly basis, while 7% (GMX) and 6% (WEB.DE) use the two freemail portals to obtain information at least three times a week. This is documented in the Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report 2021. In addition, the German-language MedienVielfaltsMonitor for the first half of 2021 puts GMX and WEB.DE among the top 10 media in the German opinion market. GMX and WEB.DE came second and first respectively in the “online opinion market” category. The two portals therefore contribute significantly to social discourse.

In order to do justice to the responsibility that this entails, we have established clear guidelines for ourselves that are set out in an editorial mission statement. Among other things, we want to offer content that is relevant for users, as well as always complying with strict data privacy standards and aiming to provide rapid and above all correct reporting in acute news situations. If errors occur nevertheless, we correct them transparently in line with a clear set of rules by drawing readers’ attention to the corrections beneath the article. The list of rules was made available to all users as part of an extensive self-assessment, the Journalism Trust Initiative.

Journalism Trust Initiative (JTI) Standard Enhances Transparency

In 2021, the editorial team decided to conduct a self-assessment in line with the Journalism Trust Initiative standard in order to makes their quality standards transparent to readers. This initiative, which was launched by the Reporters Without Borders organization, aims to disclose editorial rules, ownership structures, and sources of finance and hence enhance transparency for readers, allowing them to assess different sources of news more easily.

As part of this self-assessment, the editorial team revised its entire rulebook and published large sections of it. In addition to rules for dealing with sources and identifying news items and opinion pieces, the section entitled “How the Editorial Department Works” also contains information on the duty of care due to employees and the content of education and further training.

The JTI Standard is also the basis for calculating the Global Disinformation Index, a study determining the probability of disinformation occurring for different media. After the editorial rules had been revised and published, WEB.DE and GMX were classified as belonging to the group of media with the lowest disinformation risk, with risk scores of 76 (WEB.DE) and 77 (GMX).

In addition, the editorial team uses a wide range of mechanisms to ensure transparency for users about our sources. We regularly invite readers to visit our editorial offices, allowing us to stay close to our users and to learn from them personally what they expect from us.

We have abided voluntarily by the rules set out by the German Press Council (German only) for many years, and went a step further in 2019 by officially undertaking to comply with the German Press Code. Apart from the classic media brands, our portals were the first major pure-play online media in Germany to take this step.

The editorial news offering is not limited to the German market, but is also to be found on the brand’s localized national portals in Austria and Switzerland ( and Users of other country portals in the USA, the United Kingdom, France, and Spain are offered an automated news feed in the language of the country. Strict rules apply in all cases to partner adverts in order to protect customers from misleading advertising or offerings from the tobacco industry, for example.

Association Work and Cooperative Ventures

  • NfS: Dialog with Local Communities/at Regional Level
  • GRI 102-12
  • GRI 102-13

United Internet lives up to its responsibility to help develop the digital economy. For example, many employees contribute their time free of charge during working hours to a variety of European and national associations, joint industry committees (JICs), and foundations in order to help shape the future, ensure transparency, and create standards that benefit users.

For example, since network security does not stop at the walls of our own data centers, United Internet is active in a number of associations such as Bitkom, the Alliance for Cyber Security founded by the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), and the M3AAWG. The Company’s goals here are to promote both increasing digitalization and the development of new security standards. In addition, we share the results of our information security research within industry associations, or make them publicly available.

The Group also supports the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Europe and the German Association for the Digital Economy (BVDW), for example. Among other things, the members of these two digital associations are developing the framework for technology that will enable pages to load more rapidly and enhance the user experience. This also involves defining concepts and uniform processes so as to enable members to work more efficiently together. In addition, political and social frameworks are being developed – e.g., in relation to data privacy. In the area of Corporate Digital Responsibility, we played a key role in the development of the CDR Building Bloxx.

Equally, United Internet Group employees are contributing their working time, experience, and commitment to the German Dialog Marketing Association (DDV) so as to support the sector and shape the market to benefit users. One example of the work that the committees perform is to agree on e-mail marketing measures designed to make spamming even harder. In addition, as a founder member of the Certified Senders Alliance (CSA), we set out criteria and standards for good e-mail marketing. This allows us to roll out new standards such as One-Click Unsubscribe very quickly on the market.

We are a member of the EndUser Community of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), where we aim to represent end users’ interests and hence offer a counterweight to those of the manufacturers.

Our employees also work in JICs such as agof, the German Association for Online Research. These JICs measure neutral performance criteria such as the reach of various internet offerings, providing the market with a “currency.” In turn, this data makes it easier for website operators to obtain advertising finance, as a result of which more money is invested and users can be offered a better service.

Last but not least, United Internet employees support the work of the European netID Foundation by serving on the foundation board and advisory boards. This independent foundation is responsible for the netID log-in standard (see above) and is continuing to develop it together with the sector.

Basic Research

United Internet Media – a Group subsidiary and the exclusive media marketer for United Internet’s portal brands – regularly conducts research on basic topics that are of relevance to the sector. By doing so, it not only performs an educational function, but also provides the marketing sector with key data permanently and free of charge. Once a year, United Internet Media conducts the Digital Dialog Insights study together with the Stuttgart-based Hochschule der Medien (HdM); the current 10-year anniversary issue of the DDI published in 2021 addresses the issues of e-commerce, the post-cookie era, the coronavirus crisis, and digital dialog marketing trends. The experts polled in the course of the study expect the COVID-19 pandemic to have a long-term impact on consumer behavior and corporate marketing. According to them, high levels of investment in data-driven marketing and digital channels are to be expected in the next two years. At the same time, the survey of experts revealed that e-commerce is continuing to grow, driven by direct transactions, especially in the case of touchpoints with broad coverage, new product categories, and improved shopping experiences. Post-cookie era readiness is still at a low level: Only a fraction of companies have prepared adequately for the end of cookies. The pressure to find alternatives to cookies is rising: According to the experts, ID-based solutions such as netID will become significantly more relevant.

In a further study, United Internet Media researched the importance of e-mail for Generations Y and Z. The results revealed that young onliners use e-mail as a core application and daily tool. Having their own e-mail address for both private and formal communication is essential for the young generation according to a key finding of the “E-Mail Usage in the Young Generation” study, which was conducted in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. In addition, the study documents the many touchpoints that e-mail mailboxes have in online shopping: Young generations also make heavy use of e-mail throughout the entire digital customer journey from product research down to communication after the purchase.

Marketers can use the results of this basic research by United Internet Media to respond better to current challenges, make more focused investments in technology, and improve their e-mail dialogs with customers. Users also benefit from this by receiving relevant information, content, and advertising messages.

1&1 Mail & Media also conducts a number of other basic studies on the use of digital services and applications for the WEB.DE and GMX portal brands. Core topics here are digital communication and internet security. Every year, WEB.DE and GMX commission a comprehensive digital communication study. Among other things, this provides data on the use of e-mail, social media, and messengers, plus market data on a variety of digital services.

In addition, WEB.DE and GMX used a user survey to examine the extent to which environmental and climate protection features in day-to-day internet usage. This revealed that a large majority of Germans take care to conserve energy and resources in their everyday digital lives. At the same time, the respondents know little about the carbon emissions that arise from internet usage and want to see greater transparency from device manufacturers and internet service providers, according to a core finding of the study.