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27.01.2011 | Yevhen Solonyna

"Personal data protection" as tool for State control and corruption

   

Ukrainian entrepreneurs and human rights activists are calling on the President and Verkhovna Rada to suspend the Law on Personal Data Protection until it has been worked on. They say that according to this law any information about a person can fall under State control, and that this will lead to a greater number of checks of enterprises and, as a result, to an increase in corruption. Representatives of the government, on the other hand, claim that the Law introduces a European approach to protection of human rights.

23 branch associations, including banking, insurance companies and telecommunications systems, have sent an appeal to all branches of power demanding the suspension of the Law on Personal Data Protection which came into force at the beginning of the year. They ask in particular for a temporary revoking of criminal liability for the use of information about a person until discrepancies in legislation have been removed.

Even a pile of business cards can be considered a personal database

The Law does not provide a clear definition of personal data, and therefore any database of clients, list of the telephone numbers of business partners or simply a a pile of business cards fall under the category of personal databases and require registration, Valery Pekar, Vice President of the Ukrainian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs explains. He adds that this allows the controlling bodies unlimited scope for checking most documents of enterprises and civic organizations under the pretext of protecting information about citizens. He says that the bribe potential of the Law is enormous, this being due to its being unwarrantedly broad in its scope, the extraordinarily great powers of the controlling body and impossibility of its enforcement without subordinate acts which have not even been drafted,

Legal consultant Dmytro Yovdiy points to particular flaws:

“There is a norm stating that personal data for scientific or historical purpose should be processed in depersonalized form.  Does this then mean that in history books you can’t mention the names and dates of birth of well-known figures?

Another norm entitles people to demand that their personal data be removed.  This runs counter to civil legislation, he says. Imagine that a bank has given a loan, and the debtor tries not to pay and to avoid liability. The simplest thing is on the basis of the Law to demand that the bank remove any personal data about the person.

The Law on Personal Data Protection runs counter to international standards, Oksana Nesterenko, media specialist for the Kharkiv Human Rights Group asserts.

“Throughout the world the most sensitive data about a person is protected. This includes property status, religious affiliation, political views, biometric data and identity code. The law passed is not capable of protecting this most sensible data, yet at the same time introduces State control over the circulation of such information as name, telephone number, date of birth although these should be generally available”.

Tetyana Popova, Head of the Board of the Internet Association of Ukraine, who took part in revising the Law before its second reading, says that these and other faults of the new legislation on information have been caused by haste in preparation and the attempt to formally implement Ukraine’s international obligations. The Cabinet of Ministers and parliamentary majority reject this.  Olena Bondarenko, National Deputy from the Party of the Regions and member of the Parliamentary Committee on Freedom of Speech claims that the Law on Personal Data Protection makes it possible for ordinary citizens to protect their rights.

She does however agree that the level of protection should differ depending on the importance of the personal data and calls on representatives of the public and business community to submit specific proposals to the Verkhovna Rada regarding personal data protection.

Slightly abridged from the report at Radio Svoboda

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