EU Official Issues Guidance on Access to Personal Data

25 March 2011

The European Data Protection Supervisor March 24 issued a “background paper” on public access to documents containing personal data, to serve as guidance for EU institutions. 

“The paper explains the updated EDPS position on the matter following the ruling of the European Court of Justice in the Bavarian Lager case on the reconciliation of the fundamental rights to privacy and data protection with the fundamental right to public access to documents and transparency,” according to a press release.

Peter Hustinx, EDPS, said: 

“Reconciling data protection, privacy and public access to documents is a challenge at EU as well as Member State level. Whilst the fundamental right to data protection must be respected by the institutions, care should be taken that data protection is not used as a pretext for not being transparent. This is detrimental to good governance and not in the interest of data protection either. The EU administration should therefore give the right example. Our analysis has shown that a proactive approach serves all interests best.” 

Hustinx encouraged the EU “to develop clear internal policies, creating a presumption of openness for certain personal data in specified cases.” He said such a presumption could be established, for example, for documents which contain personal data relating to a public figure acting in his or her public capacity, or data relating solely to the professional activities of the person concerned.

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