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DID YOU KNOW that the EC Data Protection Directive (95/46/EC) was agreed at the end of 1995 with hardly any media comment? And since it is has been applicable (the UK government adopted the new rules late in March 2000) it may have far reaching consequences for businesses?


When bureaucrats devise regulations, it becomes a licence for them to take liberties. When weak governments appease them, who is left to stand up for the interests of business?

News of this Directive broke in February 1995. An enquirer tried to obtain a guide to these proposals, but was told that they were unavailable in Britain and that they had to write to Luxembourg. The Government Data Protection Office apparently welcomed this Directive as it “brings Europe closer together”. That’s fine for the politicians. But what does it mean for British business?

Paperwork. Hassle. Cost

Previously British legislation only applied to institutional computer systems holding data on living individuals.

However, as paper filing systems will now gradually be covered, a businessman will most likely have to register his address book or filofax! CCTV security systems, mobile phones and even answering machines will fall into the new categories for “sound and image data”. In time, organisations will have to register them all, and the estimated administrative cost for British business will be over £900 million. The USA manages to do without such luxuries!

Whereas organisations can currently get by with a limited range of registrations against their computer systems, the Directive would multiply the effort and cost in registering ('Notification’ to quote the Euro-speak).

This is because the role of “controller” responsible for data would have to be much devolved. This will be because “controllers” are liable for compensation to anyone who feels “damaged” by any breach of official procedure! As “controllers” are to be held guilty until proven innocent, - a perversion of our traditional rights - they would inevitably seek to cover their backs by minimising the field of their responsibility. The scope for American-style litigation is also magnified!

If you are a commercial organisation, you only get off lightly if you are a creative artist or the press - presumably as the EC will need your support in spreading its propaganda in print or a TV soap?

Watching British Business

It could become illegal to innocently record someone as a “Russian trade minister” or “German leader” under proscriptions on holding ethnic or political data. These will tend to apply unless “appropriate guarantees” are provided, such as getting the German Chancellor’s explicit permission to key in his name! Supervisory authorities are to be set up in each member state with “complete independence” (signifying a lack of accountability). They may freely demand or swap information’!

While Britain remains in the EC, we inch further down the road to a police state!

This page updated: 4 March 2000

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