Saturday, July 23, 2005

Italian privacy authority says no to transparent garbage bags

The overseer of privacy in Italy has advised municipalities in that country that requiring the use of transparent garbage bags is a violation of privacy, as it could unduly expose personal information. The municipalities had required see-through bags to make sure citizens are following sorting guidelines:


"(AGI) - Rome, Italy, Jul 22 - The obligation set by some municipalities for citizens to use transparent or with labels for 'door-to-door' garbage collection bin bags involve a breach of privacy. Instead it is allowed to have bags with bar codes, microchips or 'intelligent labels' (RFID). No to indiscriminate controls, but bags can be inspected only in cases in which the citizen who did not respect the sorting of household waste is not identifiable in any other way. With a general measure, proposed by Giuseppe Fortunato, the Watchdog for Privacy replied to questions of local authorities and many complaints and citizen's warnings who lamented a possible violation of privacy, deriving especially by the method of garbage collection and administrative controls, regarding personal data observed through the bags themselves or inspecting their contents. There are, in fact, many personal belongings (mail, phone bills, bank statements) that end up in rubbish, sometimes also regarding health (medicine, prescriptions, etc.) or political, religious or union memberships. This information, if not treated fairly, or if abused, can involve serious inconveniences to people. The Watchdog observed that the sorting of household waste, expected by specific norms, is in the public interest, but did not consider the obligation placed by some local authorities to use transparent bags for the 'door-to-door' collection fair, as anyone can easily see the contents. The norm involving labels with the name and address of the owner of the garbage, especially if left on the street, also involve a violation of privacy. (AGI)"

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