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Brussels, 28 January 2008

Statement from Vice-President Frattini on the occasion of Data Protection Day

The 28th of January 2008 marks the second European Data Protection Day. An occasion where we once again acknowledge and highlight the importance to citizens of protection of their privacy, including, in particular, their personal data. The internet, travel arrangements, health treatment, credit cards – the protection of personal data is important on every step of our daily lives. Each year advances in technology allow for increases in data sharing, which can assist in improving the lives of citizens including enhancing their security. In line with this, it is our resolve to ensure the sharing of data is harnessed in conformity with rules and laws laid down to ensure respect for the confidence of personal data. We therefore take this opportunity to highlight to all data handlers, data controllers and data providers the importance to all of us of data protection.

Following the inaugural Data Protection Day last year we undertook a survey of citizens' views in this area to inform our initiatives and policies this year. Therefore, as I announced last year on this day, a Eurobarometer survey was conducted to measure the awareness of individuals regarding data protection issues.

The very preliminary results indicate that just over a half of people interviewed (52%) considered that personal data in their country was properly protected while the majority of respondents (82%) thought that the level of people's awareness about personal data protection in their country was low.

The results also show that individuals are concerned about the security of the processing of their personal data, and what they can do themselves to protect it.

Almost 75% of respondents said they were worried about leaving personal information on the Internet.

Interestingly, more than 50% of respondents said they trusted medical services and doctors, insurance companies, banks and financial institutions, employers, police, social security, tax authorities and local authorities when handling data. On the other hand, less than 50% of respondents said they trusted market and opinion research companies, non-profit organisations, mail order companies, credit reference agencies, credit card agencies and travel companies.

Citizens also appreciate the need to share data to enhance their protection against illegal activity. Almost 75% of those questioned agreed to monitoring of telephone calls in certain circumstances or on certain conditions. As far as credit card use is concerned, almost 70% agreed with monitoring in certain circumstances or on certain conditions. Similarly, only 15% of respondents were against the monitoring of air traveller data in all cases.

It is our intention to fully analyse and understand the feedback we have been given by Europe’s citizens in this survey. We will ensure these comments inform the work we are doing in this area this year. It will also be a salutary lesson for all stakeholders involved in handling personal data and maintaining data protection.

Data protection laws are designed to ensure that personal data is treated with the respect and care it deserves. But legal rights and protections are only useful if people know that they exist, and how they can invoke their rights.

We are determined to make sure that the existing legal framework is properly applied, and that everyone, and in particular those that are handling data, are aware of their rights and obligations. To that end we also urge Member States to make every effort at national level to respond to concerns of their citizens in this context. We must work together to inform, protect and, where necessary, respond.

To find out more about Vice President Frattini's work please see his website

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