Privacy Commissioners act together

By EDRi · November 8, 2006

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)

At the 28th annual Conference of Data Protection and Information
Commissioners held on 2-3 November in London, privacy commissioners from ten
countries adopted common policies related to the international issue of
increased citizen surveillance.

The document adopted by the commissioners, titled “Communicating Data
Protection and Making It More Effective”, asked for a common support in
creating an international convention on data protection, first agreed on by
commissioners in 2005.

UK’s Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas welcomed the initiative of the
commissioners that show concern for the protection of data. He had already
warned on the dangers created by the monitoring of individuals’ actions in
UK by public and private bodies. A report prepared by the Commissioner’s
office had showed a spilt between wealthy and poor people in both physical
and economical mobility, triggered by social profiles based on data

In the same direction, on the occasion of the 72nd Federal Conference of 19
October 2006 at Naumburg, Germany, data protection officers criticized a
planned anti-terror file as being unconstitutional. A resolution was passed
in this sense.

Although they think the terrorism threat has to be dealt with, the German
data protection officers consider any anti-terrorist action should be
within the Constitution and therefore they would like to see some
modifications in the planned anti-terror file.

Another concern expressed by the data protection officers is related to a
central “educational register” with ID number for schoolchildren and
teachers called for by the German Standing Conference of the Ministers of
Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder, in view of identifying
individual data records at any time. The data protectionists have passed a
resolution stating there is no clear need for such a register at the
national level.

A new resolution of the data protectionists was related to the use of RFID
chips and the creation of secret profiles by scanning data from the RFID
devices. The resolution requires for devices to disable the chips used in
the retail and service sectors and the use of encryption during data
transmission and storing to prevent data scanning by unauthorised persons.

However, just a couple of weeks after the German privacy commissioners
meeting, the Bundesrat, the upper chamber of the German Parliament has
approved the federal government’s draft regulation on the introduction of
unique and permanent identity numbers, for tax assessment purposes.
Irrespective of age, each German citizen will have an identity number
starting with July 2007. The identity number, given by the Federal Central
Tax Office, will replace the taxpayer identification numbers issued by the
German federal states and will include personal details such as name, sex,
date of birth or address.

Data protection advocates have largely criticized the proposed new identity
number that will accompany its “owner” permanently for the entire life and
which will be included in a large database. They claim there is no
provision that would prevent the information collected for this database to
be used by the taxpayers’ employers or clients.

Privacy chiefs vow to fight surveillance together (7.11.2006)

“Communicating Data Protection and Making It More Effective” (3.11.2006)

Results of the Data protection Officers Conferences (27.10.2006, only in

Data protectionists criticize anti-terror file and register of
schoolchildren (30.10.2006)

Bundesrat gives the green light to identity number (7.11.2006)