Brussels, 28 January 2007
Statement from Vice-President Frattini, on behalf of the European Commission, on the occasion of Data Protection Day (28 January)
Data protection issues affect everyone, but are not always well understood. That is why I welcome and support the Council of Europe's initiative to raise the profile of data protection by declaring 28 January 2007 "Data Protection Day", date of signature of the Convention 108 regulating the processing of personal data.
Events will be taking place all over Europe to inform people about their personal data rights. I wish the many organisations who are preparing events every success in getting the data protection message across to the people of Europe.
We need to balance access to data for those protecting our security and fighting crime with protecting people's privacy rights. This is not a balance which stands still. Rather both sides are able to move forward with technological advances. Today, it is more important than ever that we process personal data according to our European principles. The threat presented by terrorist organisations creates a new challenge to balance with fully respecting privacy and data protection rights. We live in the era of globalisation. Technology enables information to circulate round the world in a flash. This technology also enables us to better control access to data and to pinpoint relevant data. It is in that context I announce my intention to organise in October 2007 a conference on data protection and technology.
All individuals in Europe need to be better informed about these issues which are central to their lives. Every time people surf the internet, make travel arrangements, receive health treatment, use their credit card and in countless other transactions, they supply their personal data which, if misused, could result in a serious invasion of their privacy.
Data protection in the EU has been enhanced notably by Directives 95/46 and 2002/58 and Regulation 2001/45 – as well as by the EU Charter of fundamental rights - which set out very clear principles about how personal data should be handled and gave people rights to challenge mishandling of their data. Independent data protection authorities now operate across the 27 Member States of the newly enlarged Europe playing an important role in overseeing data protection principles. These principles should not be perceived as a burden but, on the contrary, as a way of enhancing trust in the ways personal data is processed especially with the development of new technologies.
Data protection laws are designed to ensure that personal data is handled with the respect and care it deserves. But legal rights and protections are only useful if people know that they exist and know how to use them. Data Protection Day is an excellent opportunity to engage the people of Europe in the debate and, above all, to make them aware of their rights regarding that most precious of assets – their own private and intimate details.
Since the last Euro barometer the Commission carried out in 2003 a lot of developments occurred which put data protection in the centre of political discussions. This is why during the course of this year I intend to launch a new public opinion survey to assess the awareness and the needs of individuals in Europe with regard to the protection of their privacy rights.
To find out more about Vice President Frattini's work please see his website http://www.ec.europa.eu/commission_barroso/frattini/index_en.htm