Data Protection Commissioners Conference in Montreux

By EDRi · September 21, 2005

The 27th international conference of data protection commissioners took
place in Montreux/Switzerland from 13 to 15 September 2005. The meeting
with the title “The protection of personal data and privacy in a
globalised world: A universal right respecting diversities” saw several
hundred data protection authorities (DPA) officials, industry, cyberrights
groups and other stake-holders for three intense days of discussion. One
big issue was the tenth anniversary of the EU’s data protection directive
from 1995. The assessment was mixed, though. There are still many
differences in national laws and enforcement is weak. While the EU
directive had a big impact on the globalisation of data protection
legislation, this approach is hard to enforce on the border-less Internet.
There is also a strategic rival emerging with the APEC privacy guidelines
(Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) that incorporate a lower privacy
standard than the EU directive or the OECD guidelines.

Part of the discussion therefore focused on other means of privacy
protection, ranging from industry self-regulation to incorporating privacy
protection into the design of the technical infrastructures. Most
presenters agreed that the ‘user empowerment’ approach failed, and that
there needs to be some legal foundation for data protection. The
commissioners in their closed session on 16 September adopted the Montreux
Declaration. It calls for the spread of universal privacy principles
around the world, including through the U.N.; cooperation with NGOs around
the world; and for intergovernmental organisations (like ICAO, creator of
the biometric/RFID passport standard) to comply with such principles and
to appoint privacy officers.

The conference also passed resolutions on biometric identity documents and
on the use of personal data for political communications. EDRI and other
cyberrights groups were present at the conference with some speakers, a
number of participants and a successful pre-event on 12 September (see
next article). Many of the DPA representatives also referred to the
importance of EDRI and similar groups for their work. Next year’s
conference will take place in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Montreux conference website

Montreux declaration (16.09.2005)

Montreux Resolution on the use of biometrics in passports, identity cards
and travel documents (16.09.2005)

Montreux Resolution on the use of personal data for political communication

(Contribution by Ralf Bendrath, EDRI member Netzwerk Neue Medien)