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No 3 (April 96/Avril 96/April 96)
The process of implementing the recently approved framework Directive on the processing of personal data (Directive 95/46/EC (1) ) has now begun in all Member States. At the European level, the Working Party on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data, established under the Directive met for the first time on 17 January 1996, in response to requests from Member States' data protection authorities for an early start to work.
Peter J. Hustinx, President of the Dutch data protection authority has been elected chairman. The Working Party comprises a representative of the Commission and representatives of national independent data protection authorities and exists to advise the Commission on data protection matters. By pooling national expertise, it will foster a coherent approach to the application of the broad principles of the Directive. One of the principal tasks of the Working Party is to advise the Commission on the level of protection in the Community and in third countries.
An initial discussion took place on the level of privacy protection in third countries. The Directive imposes restrictions on data transfers to countries which do not ensure an adequate level of protection of privacy. It is important to ensure that transfers which are essential to the functioning of business key sectors may take place in conformity with the Directive. Flight reservation schemes, credit card management, operation of on-line services, personnel and sales management of international firms are all areas which rely on substantial transfers of personal data to third countries.
In this context a detailed study on the protection of privacy in the United States has already been undertaken for the Commission. This study, carried out by Professors Reidenberg (Colombia University) and Schwartz (University of Arkansas) under the direction of Professor Simitis (University of Frankfurt), was presented to the Working Party by the authors.
This type of reflection will be further developed on the basis of sectoral studies on transfers of data in relation to certain business sectors, and on a new horizontal study to develop a methodology to address these issues. This work will help the Commission to decide, as foreseen by the Directive, whether a given third country ensures an adequate level of protection. This decision will be taken with the assistance of a Management Committee of representatives of the Member States which is also established by the Directive. This Management Committee is due to commence work later in the year.
Finally an initial exchange of information took place on the current application of data protection law to the media in the light of the Directive's requirement to strike a balance between freedom of expression and the right to privacy.
Francesco Ruggeri Laderchi, DG XV/D-1
TEL: (+32.2)295 08 15
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(1) The Directive has the objective of ensuring the freedom to exchange personal data, an essential requirement for the provision of services within the Single Market, while guaranteeing an adequate level of protection for the fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals and in particular for the right to privacy (EC Official Journal N. L 281 of 23/11/1995). For more details see Single Market News of November 1995).