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22 2 October 2002

Ombudsman calls on Commission to clarify data protection rules

The European Ombudsman, Jacob Söderman, today proposed clarification of the Community rules on data protection(1) to emphasise that these rules do not limit the principle of openness and the right of access to official documents. The Ombudsman is concerned that data protection rules are being misinterpreted as implying the existence of a general right to participate anonymously in public activities.

According to the Ombudsman "this misinterpretation risks subverting the principle of openness and the public's right of access to documents, both at the level of the Union and in the Member States." In a paper entitled "The misuse of data protection rules in the European Union", the Ombudsman provides examples of this misinterpretation.

The Ombudsman proposed the changes in a letter to Commission President Prodi where he stated that "the current review of the Community's data protection rules offers the possibility to promote their correct interpretation and application".

The letter to President Prodi and the paper - "The misuse of data protection rules in the European Union" - can be found on the Ombudsman's website at:

For further information, please call Mr Ian Harden, Head of the Legal Department;

tel : 00 32 2 284 38 49

(1) Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data and Regulation 45/2001 which applies the principles of the Directive to the Community institutions and bodies

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