Danish debate about privacy in municipal administrations

By EDRi · May 4, 2005

A recent bill proposing a comprehensive structural reform of the Danish municipal system has initiated a heated debate about the protection of personal data, the rule of law and citizens access to information. “How can digital administration empower marginalised groups of the Danish society?”, “How to ensure that the administration will be more transparent for the citizen and not the other way around?”, and “How can democratic control ensure coherence between political goals and technology choices?”. These were some of the questions debated on 27 April 2005 when a working group established by the Danish Board of Technology had invited a number of public and private decision makers to discuss consequences and perspectives of the digital administration. In the debate the Danish Institute for Human Rights stressed that the current proposals represent a regress of citizens’ rights rather than an
improvement, not least concerning the right to privacy.

On 2 May 2005 the workshop was followed by a Parliamentary Hearing, in which members of the legal committee of the Parliament had asked an expert panel to give their assessments of rights implications related to the current proposal on citizen service centres. The debate underlined two points. Firstly that the current proposals do represent a regression in privacy protection and access to information compared to the current level of protection in Denmark. Secondly that there are no solid arguments (neither technical, practical nor legal) for lowering the level of privacy protection in order to gain benefits from digital administrations. Not even the representatives from the municipalities (who will be implementing the new proposals) were able to provide any argument to implement legislation that will lower protection in stead of enhance it. At the Hearing the Danish Institute for Human Rights argued that the perspective of citizen empowerment has to be included, as well as self autonomy and democratic participation. Digital administrations should not only be addressed from a perspective of administrative efficiency.

In February 2005 a first report on Privacy and Digital Administration was published by the working group under The Danish Board of Technology. A final report will follow in August 2005.

Information about the proposed bill (in Danish)

Kan jeg kryptere mit domænenavn i bits?

(Contribution by Rikke Frank Jørgensen from EDRI-member digital rights in Denmark and the Danish Institute for Human Rights)