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Report of Art. 29 Working Party’s meeting of 19 February 2008

pdf mise en ligne :20 02 2008 ( NEA say… n° 47 )

ASILE > Système d'information Schengen

During the meeting of 19 February 2008, the Art. 29 WP elected its new chairman and vice chairman, decided upon its work programme for the next two years, adopted an opinion on children’s privacy, resolved to continue its joint enforcement measures, and prepared for the next Safe Harbour Conference to take place in Brussels later this year.

New Chairman and Vice Chairman: The Art. 29 WP elected Alex Turk, the head of French Data Protection Authority as its next chairman. Jacob Kohnstamm, the president of Dutch Data Protection Authority, became the new vice chairman.  


Search Engines: The WP continued its deliberations on a long-awaited working paper on search engines, with a view to finalising this work in the course of the next months. As the use of search engines becomes a daily routine for an ever growing number of citizens, the protection of the users’ privacy and the guaranteeing of their rights, such as the right to access to their data and the right to information as provided for by the applicable data protection regulations, remain the core issues of the ongoing debate. These provisions also apply to such controllers who have their headquarters outside the EU, but only an establishment in one of the EU Member States, or who use automated equipment based in one of the Member States for the purposes of processing personal data. 


Bi-annual Work programme 2008/2009: Many vital issues remain on the agenda of the Art. 29 WP. In its new bi-annual programme, the WP made it clear that it wants to keep abreast of such developments in order to be able to inform citizens about data protection related issues and to find privacy enhancing solutions when it comes to new technological applications. 

The growing plans of governments around the world to track travellers through surveillance mechanisms raise alarm bells in the data protection world. Social networks and behavioural targeting pose many privacy related challenges which need to be examined and adequately addressed. Legal instruments to ensure the smooth transfer of personal data from Europe to countries without an adequate level of data protection, such as binding corporate rules (BCRs) or standard contractual clauses, require the further attention of the group and a continual dialogue with the industry. The importance to conceive a standard model of BCRs and to harmonize them was stressed by the group even if at the same time British Delegation was a little bit sceptical. 


Children and Privacy: The adopted document is specifically aimed at school authorities who collect and process many data including sensitive data not only about pupils, but also about their representatives. Some amendments were included. Spanish Delegation, for example, underlined the importance that children’ data can be transmitted (especially for marketing purposes) only with parents’ prior consent.  

The WP decided to invite all those handling children’s data to comment on the document, which should be considered a first step towards a better understanding of children’ s needs and rights in this field.  


Safe Harbor Conference: Following last year’s successful Safe Harbor Conference in Washington, a follow-up event will take place in the course of this year. By hosting this year’s conference in Brussels the WP underlines its commitment to engage with the US authorities on all pending questions of shared interest and to strengthen mutual trust and understanding. The Safe Harbor scheme has proved to be an invaluable instrument for the industry to transfer personal data to the US, and should be further developed. A permanent working group has therefore been established jointly by the EU and the US to work on proposals aimed at tackling pending questions such as enhancing transparency and promoting acceptance. 


Data Protection Day: The second Data Protection Day, which fell on 28 January 2008, proved to be a great success. The WP evaluated the numerous measures undertaken in all EU Member States to share experiences and promote best practices. The Data Protection Authorities found various ways to reach out to their citizens, particularly young people, to raise awareness. The media reported extensively about current privacy issues, and politicians engaged with their citizens in countless events across Europe. Following the recent scandals in some Member States, European citizens are more and more concerned about the way in which government agencies and private businesses handle their personal data. The large scale breaches of data protection provisions in the recent past have to be taken seriously to address these concerns. Much needs to be done to improve the poor picture which emerges out of careless practices to re-establish trust and confidence. 


New tools for an integrated European Border Management Strategy: A representative of European Commission presented to WP a project aimed to facilitate the transit of people within European Union’s borders, but at the same time to prevent clandestine immigration. It was stressed the problem European Union has often to face: the stay of people in a EU Member State beyond legal terms; EUROSUR (European Border Surveillance System) would alert national authorities about that. The project doesn’t concern countries that need Visa, since for them biometric data-gathering is requested but addresses especially to European citizens, for whom no Visa obligation is required. The implementation of EUROSUR should be divided into three phases. 

Phase 1: Upgrading and extending national border surveillance systems and interlinking national infrastructures in a communication network. 

Phase 2: Targeting researching and development to improve the performance of surveillance tools and sensors (e.g. satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles, etc.), and developing a common application of surveillance tools.  

Phase3: All relevant data from national surveillance, new surveillance tools, European and international reporting systems and intelligence sources should be gathered, analysed and disseminated in a structured manner, to create a common information sharing environment between the relevant national authorities.  

The WP, moreover, was sceptical, above all, for the difficulty to implement a project of this size and that aims to record all the entries and exits,  


During the meeting other two new projects were presented SAFEE Project and OpTag Project. They both aim to improve efficacy and security in the airports through the installation of cameras. With the former the purpose is to observe and study potential passengers’ suspicious behaviours from the moment of check-in to when the passenger is in the aircraft. The latter focuses, instead, to take under control the flux of people that move within European Union. Both projects need a follow up taking in consideration citizens’ data protection rights.   


                                               Ilaria MARSILI


The Article 29 Working Party on the Protection of Individuals with regard to the Processing of Personal Data is an independent advisory body on data protection and privacy, set up under Article 29 of the Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC. It is composed of representatives from the national data protection authorities of the EU Member States, the European Data Protection Supervisor and the European Commission. Its tasks are described in Article 30 of Directive 95/46/EC and Article 15 of Directive 2002/58/EC. The WP is competent to examine questions covering the application of the national measures adopted under the data protection directives in order to contribute to the uniform application of the directives. It carries out this task by issuing recommendations, opinions and working documents. (FR) (EN)