DPA conference backed by civil society meeting

By EDRi · September 22, 2004

The protection of privacy and personal data is an integral part of the
principle of human dignity, as enshrined in all important documents on
Human Rights, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the
draft European Constitution. It should therefore be a priority in any
civilised society. These were the conclusions of Stefano Rodotà, for many
years the Chairman of the Article 29 Working Group of EU Member States’
Data Protection Commissioners, at a Conference uniting 26 countries’ Data
Protection and Privacy authorities last week in Wroclaw, Poland.

This annual Conference, held for the 26th time, had as a motto, inspired
by Rodotà, “Right to Privacy – Right to Dignity”. It dealt with numerous
single issues, ranging from Radio Frequency Identification chips (RFID) to
employee’s rights and from mass e-mails from political parties to privacy
issues related to “the need to deal with the past”, in particular in
formerly Communist Central and Eastern European Countries.

But the single most important issue that almost all sessions focussed on
were the threats to privacy caused by measures proposed by the U.S. as
well as by EU member states for combating terrorism. While law enforcement
favours an approach where privacy is at best a nice add-on, and at worst,
detrimental to security, privacy commissioners like the EU Commissioner
Peter Hustinx see privacy as being an integral part of security and would
like the two to be dealt with as one unit: “You can’t have one without the
other,” Hustinx said. At the same time, as Ulrich Dammann from the German
Federal Commissioner’s office pointed out, privacy is increasingly
becoming an international issue, which should be dealt with
internationally, possibly as a result of a kind of global “lex

How to proceed in the future was also the big question at an international
symposium that EDRI hosted, together with partner organisations Electronic
Privacy Information Center and Privacy International, the day before the
Commissioner’s meeting, also in Wroclaw. The answers given by attendants
from many countries in- and outside of the EU, were, if maybe a little
less visionary, at least as interesting as the ones given at the
Commissioner’s meeting. Agreement was found on the need for increased
co-operation amongst civil society privacy activists as well as
collaboration with data protection authorities. One of the points where
civil society could certainly contribute is the establishment of best
practices for data protection authorities. In many countries, like Serbia,
speakers from those regions pointed out, this is still far away: they have
neither privacy laws nor independent authorities overseeing the protection
of privacy. Only 500 countries worldwide have introduced such measures so

Lots of discussions took place outside the official meeting rooms, so that
the Wroclaw meeting may very well be the starting point for an improved
global co-operation between the official DPA’s and the civil society data
protection people.

26th International Conference on Privacy and Personal Data Protection (14-16.09.2004)

Public Voice Symposium: Privacy in a New Era: Challenges, Opportunities and Partnerships (13.09.2004)

(Contribution by Andreas Dietl, EDRI EU Affairs Director)