Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Data protection in Europe

I just got an e-mail from Dr. Jóri András ügyvéd in Budapest to let me know about his new online resource on European Data Protection. I've had a chance to check it out and I'm definitely bookmarking it. You can find it here: Data protection in Europe.

Here's the welcome message from the main page:

Welcome to!

There is much talk about the crisis of data protection legislation in Europe. I've been dealing with data protection law for seven years. I can still recall the atmosphere in the late 90s that was pervasive in the office led by the first data protection commissioner of Hungary. We were enthusiastic, our task was to make a new constitutional right known for the public. We were more members of a workshop, champions of the new constitutional right, than mere bureaucrats.

I am no longer involved in this work: for six years I've been helping my clients - companies and goverment agencies - in complying with data protection law, and sometimes I have the opportunity to contribute to the creation of legal instruments with data protection relevance. Standing on the "other side" my perspective is not the same, of course. From this point of view you can see what is hidden to civil servants: how hard is it - even with great efforts - to apply legal texts that have deficiencies, how important it is to formulate coherent, acceptable and concistent interpretations in this field of law, and what are the results (and costs) of a given decision by the data protection authority. On the "other side", one can think more freely, and can ask questions like "is informational self-determination worth its price?"; "is an institution organized following the ombudsman-model the best one to control the compliance with data protection law?". The answer is not necessarily "no" - but the arguments raised by the sceptics of data protection are sometimes worth the consideration.

Is data protection in crisis? Is informational self-determination just a toy for constitutional lawyers? Can it be reinvented to meet the challenges of the information age?

These are questions yet to be answered. My aim with this project - - is to carry out a comparative analysis of European data protection legislations, that can help the data protection community of Europe to answer them.

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