Thursday, November 09, 2006

Working Together to safeguard data

One very positive outcome of the international conference of data protection and privacy commissioners held last week:

At the annual Conference of Data Protection and Information Commissioners, held last week in London, a joint set of objectives was adopted by the international commissioners aimed at tackling what they see as a growing international issue of constant citizen surveillance.

"The protection of citizens’ personal data is vital for any society, on the same level as freedom of the press or freedom of movement," said the communiqué adopted by Commissioners. "As our societies are increasingly dependent on the use of information technologies, and personal data are collected or generated at a growing scale, it has become more essential than ever that individual liberties and other legitimate interests of citizens are adequately respected."

The full
communique (pdf) identifies the current threats to data protection, including the fact that regulation often lags far behind rapid technological developments. One paragraph that caught our eye as especially relevant to ARCH's child database concerns:
DPAs must constantly remind the public and governments that creating databases with ever-more personal information does not solve all problems. The sacred aura of the supposedly infallible computer file must often be portrayed as a delusion. In addition, as more and more personal information is processed, the risks increase of false matches, out of date information and other mistakes. These can cause real harm to the life chances, the health, the prosperity, and even the liberty, of individuals.

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