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Monday 18 September 2006

EU and the right to privacy:
EDPS on mid-term state of play

Earlier today, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) held a press conference. Touching upon his achievements both in terms of data protection advice to the EU-institutions and supervision of their data processing, he also commented on the current debate climate - in which data protection and privacy advocates are wrongly criticised of hindering security policies.

Peter Hustinx, EDPS, said: "It is a misconception that protection of privacy and personal data holds back the fight against terrorism and organised crime. Current legislation however does allow for instance law enforcement to check suspicious phone numbers found in a computer. Good data protection actually goes hand in hand with legitimate crime fighting because it increases the quality of data bases and at the same time makes sure that only the right people can access them".

Major terrorist attacks in recent years have pushed for the development of new legislation, often with great data protection relevance. The EDPS has advised on issues such as the transfer of PNR-data, on retention of telecommunications data, and on large scale IT-systems, such as the Visa and Schengen information systems.

New legislation is drafted for legitimate security reasons. When adopted it will provide for exchange of information at an unprecedented level - citizen's data will be used more and more. This needs to be tied to clear standards of data protection. Citizens must be sure that their data are only used when needed and only by those who are authorised. Few individuals will accept that, for instance, their phone records would be accessed for other purposes than law enforcement. Adequate safeguards must be in place and monitored.

In terms of supervision of EU administration, about 100 existing systems of personal data processing have been prior checked. The vast majority concerned medical files and staff evaluation. The single most salient point is that institutions nearly always fail to properly inform the individuals concerned that their data are processed and the reasons for it.

These people therefore do not receive enough information to exercise their rights, such as the right of access to their data. One example is in EU-recruitment exams, where candidates have a right to know the results not only of their written, but also of their oral exams.

For more information, please contact the EDPS Press Service at: +32 2 283 19 00
EDPS - the European guardian of personal data protection

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