European Treaty Series - No. 108
Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data
The member States of the Council of Europe, signatory hereto,
Considering that the aim of the Council of Europe is to achieve greater unity between its members, based in particular on respect for the rule of law, as well as human rights and fundamental freedoms;
Considering that it is desirable to extend the safeguards for everyone's rights and fundamental freedoms, and in particular the right to the respect for privacy, taking account of the increasing flow across frontiers of personal data undergoing automatic processing;
Reaffirming at the same time their commitment to freedom of information regardless of frontiers;
Recognising that it is necessary to reconcile the fundamental values of the respect for privacy and the free flow of information between peoples,
Have agreed as follows:
Chapter I – General provisions
Article 1 – Object and purpose
The purpose of this Convention is to secure in the territory of each Party for every individual, whatever his nationality or residence, respect for his rights and fundamental freedoms, and in particular his right to privacy, with regard to automatic processing of personal data relating to him ("data protection").
Article 2 – Definitions
For the purposes of this Convention:
a"personal data" means any information relating to an identified or identifiable individual ("data subject");
b"automated data file" means any set of data undergoing automatic processing;
c"automatic processing" includes the following operations if carried out in whole or in part by automated means: storage of data, carrying out of logical and/or arithmetical operations on those data, their alteration, erasure, retrieval or dissemination;
d"controller of the file" means the natural or legal person, public authority, agency or any other body who is competent according to the national law to decide what should be the purpose of the automated data file, which categories of personal data should be stored and which operations should be applied to them.
Article 3 – Scope
1The Parties undertake to apply this Convention to automated personal data files and automatic processing of personal data in the public and private sectors.
2Any State may, at the time of signature or when depositing its instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession, or at any later time, give notice by a declaration addressed to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe:
athat it will not apply this Convention to certain categories of automated personal data files, a list of which will be deposited. In this list it shall not include, however, categories of automated data files subject under its domestic law to data protection provisions. Consequently, it shall amend this list by a new declaration whenever additional categories of automated personal data files are subjected to data protection provisions under its domestic law;
bthat it will also apply this Convention to information relating to groups of persons, associations, foundations, companies, corporations and any other bodies consisting directly or indirectly of individuals, whether or not such bodies possess legal personality;
cthat it will also apply this Convention to personal data files which are not processed automatically.
3Any State which has extended the scope of this Convention by any of the declarations provided for in sub-paragraph 2.b or c above may give notice in the said declaration that such extensions shall apply only to certain categories of personal data files, a list of which will be deposited.
4Any Party which has excluded certain categories of automated personal data files by a declaration provided for in sub-paragraph 2.a above may not claim the application of this Convention to such categories by a Party which has not excluded them.
5Likewise, a Party which has not made one or other of the extensions provided for in sub-paragraphs 2.b and c above may not claim the application of this Convention on these points with respect to a Party which has made such extensions.
6The declarations provided for in paragraph 2 above shall take effect from the moment of the entry into force of the Convention with regard to the State which has made them if they have been made at the time of signature or deposit of its instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession, or three months after their receipt by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe if they have been made at any later time. These declarations may be withdrawn, in whole or in part, by a notification addressed to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe. Such withdrawals shall take effect three months after the date of receipt of such notification.
Chapter II – Basic principles for data protection
Article 4 – Duties of the Parties
1Each Party shall take the necessary measures in its domestic law to give effect to the basic principles for data protection set out in this chapter.
2These measures shall be taken at the latest at the time of entry into force of this Convention in respect of that Party.
Article 5 – Quality of data
Personal data undergoing automatic processing shall be:
aobtained and processed fairly and lawfully;
bstored for specified and legitimate purposes and not used in a way incompatible with those purposes;
cadequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purposes for which they are stored;
daccurate and, where necessary, kept up to date;
epreserved in a form which permits identification of the data subjects for no longer than is required for the purpose for which those data are stored.
Article 6 – Special categories of data
Personal data revealing racial origin, political opinions or religious or other beliefs, as well as personal data concerning health or sexual life, may not be processed automatically unless domestic law provides appropriate safeguards. The same shall apply to personal data relating to criminal convictions.
Article 7 – Data security
Appropriate security measures shall be taken for the protection of personal data stored in automated data files against accidental or unauthorised destruction or accidental loss as well as against unauthorised access, alteration or dissemination.
Article 8 – Additional safeguards for the data subject
Any person shall be enabled:
ato establish the existence of an automated personal data file, its main purposes, as well as the identity and habitual residence or principal place of business of the controller of the file;
bto obtain at reasonable intervals and without excessive delay or expense confirmation of whether personal data relating to him are stored in the automated data file as well as communication to him of such data in an intelligible form;
cto obtain, as the case may be, rectification or erasure of such data if these have been processed contrary to the provisions of domestic law giving effect to the basic principles set out in Articles 5 and 6 of this Convention;
dto have a remedy if a request for confirmation or, as the case may be, communication, rectification or erasure as referred to in paragraphs b and c of this article is not complied with.
Article 9 – Exceptions and restrictions
1No exception to the provisions of Articles 5, 6 and 8 of this Convention shall be allowed except within the limits defined in this article.
2Derogation from the provisions of Articles 5, 6 and 8 of this Convention shall be allowed when such derogation is provided for by the law of the Party and constitutes a necessary measure in a democratic society in the interests of:
aprotecting State security, public safety, the monetary interests of the State or the suppression of criminal offences;
bprotecting the data subject or the rights and freedoms of others.
3Restrictions on the exercise of the rights specified in Article 8, paragraphs b, c and d, may be provided by law with respect to automated personal data files used for statistics or for scientific research purposes when there is obviously no risk of an infringement of the privacy of the data subjects.
Article 10 – Sanctions and remedies
Each Party undertakes to establish appropriate sanctions and remedies for violations of provisions of domestic law giving effect to the basic principles for data protection set out in this chapter.
Article 11 – Extended protection
None of the provisions of this chapter shall be interpreted as limiting or otherwise affecting the possibility for a Party to grant data subjects a wider measure of protection than that stipulated in this Convention.
Chapter III – Transborder data flows
Article 12 – Transborder flows of personal data and domestic law
1The following provisions shall apply to the transfer across national borders, by whatever medium, of personal data undergoing automatic processing or collected with a view to their being automatically processed.
2A Party shall not, for the sole purpose of the protection of privacy, prohibit or subject to special authorisation transborder flows of personal data going to the territory of another Party.
3Nevertheless, each Party shall be entitled to derogate from the provisions of paragraph 2:
ainsofar as its legislation includes specific regulations for certain categories of personal data or of automated personal data files, because of the nature of those data or those files, except where the regulations of the other Party provide an equivalent protection;
bwhen the transfer is made from its territory to the territory of a non-Contracting State through the intermediary of the territory of another Party, in order to avoid such transfers resulting in circumvention of the legislation of the Party referred to at the beginning of this paragraph.
Chapter IV – Mutual assistance
Article 13 – Co-operation between Parties
1The Parties agree to render each other mutual assistance in order to implement this Convention.
2For that purpose:
aeach Party shall designate one or more authorities, the name and address of each of which it shall communicate to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe;
beach Party which has designated more than one authority shall specify in its communication referred to in the previous sub-paragraph the competence of each authority.
3An authority designated by a Party shall at the request of an authority designated by another Party:
afurnish information on its law and administrative practice in the field of data protection;
btake, in conformity with its domestic law and for the sole purpose of protection of privacy, all appropriate measures for furnishing factual information relating to specific automatic processing carried out in its territory, with the exception however of the personal data being processed.
Article 14 – Assistance to data subjects resident abroad
1Each Party shall assist any person resident abroad to exercise the rights conferred by its domestic law giving effect to the principles set out in Article 8 of this Convention.
2When such a person resides in the territory of another Party he shall be given the option of submitting his request through the intermediary of the authority designated by that Party.
3The request for assistance shall contain all the necessary particulars, relating inter alia to:
athe name, address and any other relevant particulars identifying the person making the request;
bthe automated personal data file to which the request pertains, or its controller;
cthe purpose of the request.
Article 15 – Safeguards concerning assistance rendered by designated authorities
1An authority designated by a Party which has received information from an authority designated by another Party either accompanying a request for assistance or in reply to its own request for assistance shall not use that information for purposes other than those specified in the request for assistance.
2Each Party shall see to it that the persons belonging to or acting on behalf of the designated authority shall be bound by appropriate obligations of secrecy or confidentiality with regard to that information.
3In no case may a designated authority be allowed to make under Article 14, paragraph 2, a request for assistance on behalf of a data subject resident abroad, of its own accord and without the express consent of the person concerned.
Article 16 – Refusal of requests for assistance
A designated authority to which a request for assistance is addressed under Articles 13 or 14 of this Convention may not refuse to comply with it unless:
athe request is not compatible with the powers in the field of data protection of the authorities responsible for replying;
bthe request does not comply with the provisions of this Convention;
ccompliance with the request would be incompatible with the sovereignty, security or public policy (ordre public) of the Party by which it was designated, or with the rights and fundamental freedoms of persons under the jurisdiction of that Party.
Article 17 – Costs and procedures of assistance
1Mutual assistance which the Parties render each other under Article 13 and assistance they render to data subjects abroad under Article 14 shall not give rise to the payment of any costs or fees other than those incurred for experts and interpreters. The latter costs or fees shall be borne by the Party which has designated the authority making the request for assistance.
2The data subject may not be charged costs or fees in connection with the steps taken on his behalf in the territory of another Party other than those lawfully payable by residents of that Party.
3Other details concerning the assistance relating in particular to the forms and procedures and the languages to be used, shall be established directly between the Parties concerned.
Chapter V – Consultative Committee
Article 18 – Composition of the committee
1A Consultative Committee shall be set up after the entry into force of this Convention.
2Each Party shall appoint a representative to the committee and a deputy representative. Any member State of the Council of Europe which is not a Party to the Convention shall have the right to be represented on the committee by an observer.
3The Consultative Committee may, by unanimous decision, invite any non-member State of the Council of Europe which is not a Party to the Convention to be represented by an observer at a given meeting.
Article 19 – Functions of the committee
The Consultative Committee:
amay make proposals with a view to facilitating or improving the application of the Convention;
bmay make proposals for amendment of this Convention in accordance with Article 21;
cshall formulate its opinion on any proposal for amendment of this Convention which is referred to it in accordance with Article 21, paragraph 3;
dmay, at the request of a Party, express an opinion on any question concerning the application of this Convention.
Article 20 – Procedure
1The Consultative Committee shall be convened by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe. Its first meeting shall be held within twelve months of the entry into force of this Convention. It shall subsequently meet at least once every two years and in any case when one-third of the representatives of the Parties request its convocation.
2A majority of representatives of the Parties shall constitute a quorum for a meeting of the Consultative Committee.
3After each of its meetings, the Consultative Committee shall submit to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe a report on its work and on the functioning of the Convention.
4Subject to the provisions of this convention, the Consultative Committee shall draw up its own Rules of Procedure.
Chapter VI – Amendments
Article 21 – Amendments
1Amendments to this Convention may be proposed by a Party, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe or the Consultative Committee.
2Any proposal for amendment shall be communicated by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe to the member States of the Council of Europe and to every non-member State which has acceded to or has been invited to accede to this Convention in accordance with the provisions of Article 23.
3Moreover, any amendment proposed by a Party or the Committee of Ministers shall be communicated to the Consultative Committee, which shall submit to the Committee of Ministers its opinion on that proposed amendment.
4The Committee of Ministers shall consider the proposed amendment and any opinion submitted by the Consultative Committee and may approve the amendment.
5The text of any amendment approved by the Committee of Ministers in accordance with paragraph 4 of this article shall be forwarded to the Parties for acceptance.
6Any amendment approved in accordance with paragraph 4 of this article shall come into force on the thirtieth day after all Parties have informed the Secretary General of their acceptance thereof.
Chapter VII – Final clauses
Article 22 – Entry into force
1This Convention shall be open for signature by the member States of the Council of Europe. It is subject to ratification, acceptance or approval. Instruments of ratification, acceptance or approval shall be deposited with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.
2This Convention shall enter into force on the first day of the month following the expiration of a period of three months after the date on which five member States of the Council of Europe have expressed their consent to be bound by the Convention in accordance with the provisions of the preceding paragraph.
3In respect of any member State which subsequently expresses its consent to be bound by it, the Convention shall enter into force on the first day of the month following the expiration of a period of three months after the date of deposit of the instrument of ratification, acceptance or approval.
Article 23 – Accession by non-member States
1After the entry into force of this Convention, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe may invite any State not a member of the Council of Europe to accede to this Convention by a decision taken by the majority provided for in Article 20.d of the Statute of the Council of Europe and by the unanimous vote of the representatives of the Contracting States entitled to sit on the committee.
2In respect of any acceding State, the Convention shall enter into force on the first day of the month following the expiration of a period of three months after the date of deposit of the instrument of accession with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.
Article 24 – Territorial clause
1Any State may at the time of signature or when depositing its instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession, specify the territory or territories to which this Convention shall apply.
2Any State may at any later date, by a declaration addressed to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, extend the application of this Convention to any other territory specified in the declaration. In respect of such territory the Convention shall enter into force on the first day of the month following the expiration of a period of three months after the date of receipt of such declaration by the Secretary General.
3Any declaration made under the two preceding paragraphs may, in respect of any territory specified in such declaration, be withdrawn by a notification addressed to the Secretary General. The withdrawal shall become effective on the first day of the month following the expiration of a period of six months after the date of receipt of such notification by the Secretary General.
Article 25 – Reservations
No reservation may be made in respect of the provisions of this Convention.
Article 26 – Denunciation
1Any Party may at any time denounce this Convention by means of a notification addressed to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.
2Such denunciation shall become effective on the first day of the month following the expiration of a period of six months after the date of receipt of the notification by the Secretary General.
Article 27 – Notifications
The Secretary General of the Council of Europe shall notify the member States of the Council and any State which has acceded to this Convention of:
bthe deposit of any instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession;
cany date of entry into force of this Convention in accordance with Articles 22, 23 and 24;
dany other act, notification or communication relating to this Convention.
In witness whereof the undersigned, being duly authorised thereto, have signed this Convention.
Done at Strasbourg, the 28th day of January 1981, in English and in French, both texts being equally authoritative, in a single copy which shall remain deposited in the archives of the Council of Europe. The Secretary General of the Council of Europe shall transmit certified copies to each member State of the Council of Europe and to any State invited to accede to this Convention.