European Data Protection Day: progressing towards more reliable and modern regulation

Éthique | 09 Aug 2013
On 28 January, the protection of digital data takes centre stage across Europe. On the initiative of the Council of Europe, since 2007 this date has officially been “European Data Protection Day”, in reference to the Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data of 28 January 1981. The event is the perfect opportunity to remember that digital technology can be developed only if there is solid and uniform legislation in place to protect the personal data of European citizens.
Launched by the Council of Europe, the idea was supported by the European Commission. In 2007, this body declared 28 January of each year to be European Data Protection Day.

The aim of the event is to make European citizens aware of the importance of personal data protection and of ensuring that their fundamental rights and freedoms are respected – particularly their right to privacy. As a result, various events are organized and communications issued by the authorities and bodies involved in data protection.

To mark the occasion, the French data protection commission (CNIL) published a series of practical fact sheets designed to help employees and employers manage personal data at work. This topic has become a major focus for CNIL, given the boom in new digital technology, in particular mobile technology. At a time when we are seeing an increase in the use of smartphones, teleworking and bring your own device (BYOD), the body is reiterating the fact that it is essential to maintain a balance between supervising employees’ work and protecting privacy. It should be noted that in 2012, more than 10% of complaints received by CNIL were work-related.

European Data Protection Day is an ongoing part of the Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data, ratified upon signature on 28 January 1981. This convention has become the international legal standard, and inspired the directives subsequently adopted by the European Union on 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data and on 12 July 2002 on privacy and electronic communications.

Last year, shortly before European Data Protection Day 2012, the Commission proposed a comprehensive reform of data protection rules with the publication of the proposal for a regulation defining a general framework for the EU for the protection of personal data. This reform aims to “strengthen online privacy rights and boost Europe's digital economy,” according to the official press release. It will also update the 1995 text, which has become a little out of touch. In fact, at the time, “less than 1% of Europeans used the Internet”, according to Viviane Reding, the Commission’s vice-president and EU justice commissioner, during the official announcement of the proposal for the regulation.

The text of the proposal for the regulation is still being discussed in the European Parliament and is due to be the subject of a vote at the end of April. Ireland, which will hold the presidency of the Council of the EU for the next six months, has announced that it will endeavour to obtain political agreement on the reform before the end of its presidency in June.

Furthermore, CNIL had voiced its concerns regarding several points of the text. These were taken into account by the rapporteur to the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, Jan Philipp Albrecht. Published on 8 January, his report “largely” answers CNIL’s concerns.

Examples of documents published by CNIL on the protection of health data

  • The Guide for healthcare professionals (September 2011): this practical guide informs healthcare professionals on the measures to take to ensure their file management complies with the law on information technology and freedom. It also offers advice on how to implement measures to respect the integrity and security of health data and safeguard patients’ rights.

Photo : © Julien Eichinger -