Committee of experts on protection of journalism and safety of journalists (MSI-JO)

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NB_CE

Strasbourg, 9 November 2011

CDMC(2011)022

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STEERING COMMITTEE ON
THE MEDIA AND NEW COMMUNICATION SERVICES

(CDMC)

______

______

Comments by the Steering Committee on the Media and New Communication Services (CDMC) on Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1984 (2011)
on the protection of privacy and personal data on the Internet and online media

 

1. The CDMC welcomes the Recommendation 1984 (2011) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the protection of privacy and personal data on the Internet and online media. The recommendation considers the promotion of common legal standards for the protection of privacy and personal data on ICT-based networks and services throughout Europe and beyond, which is a highly topical issue in the current globalised scenario where formidable developments in information and communication networks have brought about an unprecedented proliferation of personal data.

2. ICT-based networks and services play a central role in the information society. They are a significant tool for expression and communication and have great potential to promote the exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, in particular the freedom to express, create and exchange content and ideas as well as the freedom of assembly and association. As part of the public service value of the Internet, new technology-based services can facilitate democracy and social cohesion.

3. While acknowledging the important value that ICTs play for individuals, it is also important to recognise the manifold challenges for fundamental rights coming from the same ICT based networks and services.

4. Information society developments have brought the relationship between the right to private life, on the one hand, and the right to freedom of expression, democracy and the rule of law, on the other, to the centre of attention more than any other particular media or technological developments have done before.

5. The ability of Internet intermediaries to have access to and use personal data is appealing to entities seeking to achieve particular goals or pursue specific interests which may not always have access to information and freedom of expression as their driving force. As a result, intermediaries can be become barriers for access to information and free speech.

6. The disclosure of personal data required by certain companies managing Internet resources or providing services or operating platforms may represent barriers to individuals’ ability to engage in anonymous and critical speech. In some other cases, although limited in number but not in significance, the pool of Internet users’ personal data held by new media actors risks becoming subject to blanket orders of access by law enforcement authorities which in turn entails risks of inhibiting the full exercise and enjoyment of freedom of expression and may have an impact on their participation in online environments.1

7. In its work, the CDMC has sought to address the necessary conditions in terms of the protection of personal data that bear on the exercise and protection of freedom of expression and access to information on the Internet. In this context, the CDMC wishes to recall the Declaration on the management of the Internet protocol address resources in the public interest adopted on 29 September 2010, whereby the Committee of Ministers declared that where appropriate, identification features incorporated into Internet protocol addresses assigned to Internet users or devices connected to the Internet should be regarded and treated as personal data. By offering guidance to member states on policy responses to developments in the new media landscape, the Recommendation CM/Rec(2011)7 on a new notion of media, provides a frame of reference for ensuring the protection of the right to freedom of expression and access to information in connection with new media actors. The CDMC is presently working towards the finalisation of two draft recommendations on the protection of human rights respectively in the context of search engines and social networks, where particular attention is paid to the protection of freedom of expression and the right to private life.

8. Information society developments clearly illustrate how, in an increasing number of cases, the management or handling of personal data is likely to have a direct or indirect bearing on Internet users’ ability to seek, access and impart information and to participate in democratic processes. Consequently, in addition to general support for the principles on the protection of privacy and personal data in ICT environments set out in Resolution 1843 (2011) of the Parliamentary Assembly, the CDMC particularly welcomes the first principle which emphasises the key role that the protection of private life has for the functioning of democracy.

9. The CDMC is of the opinion that modern regimes of personal data protection, which, as necessary and appropriate, may include regulatory and self-regulatory approaches or combinations of the two as indicated by the Parliamentary Assembly in Resolution 1843(2011), should pay attention to the protection of the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association and to the strengthening of citizens’ participation in democratic processes. The CDMC wishes to stress that, in ICT-related policy making, standard-setting and benchmarks, it is of paramount importance to pursue the aim of striking a balance between fundamental rights, as in the case of data protection and freedom of expression.

10. The CMDC is convinced that the construction of a safe ICT environment where personal data and privacy are adequately protected is ineludible. The protection of these rights, which also represent a pre-condition for the enhancement of further fundamental rights, as freedom of expression and right to assembly, must be adequately ensured in an online context as well as offline. As the Assembly rightly points out, an adequate response to the challenges posed by new technologies should preserve and in no way lower, privacy and protection of personal data standards.

11. Bearing this in mind, the CDMC supports the view that great efforts should be made to promote the signature and ratification of Convention 108 and its Additional Protocol, also by states which are not Council of Europe member states and to provide adequate budgetary resources for the further development of Convention 108. Together with its Additional Protocol, Convention 108 can play a fundamental role in responding to the increasingly urgent need for globalised standards for data protection given that, at present, they remain the only existing binding international law standards in this field.

1 The CDMC refers to the Resolution of the Inter- Parliamentary Union: Iceland, Case No IS/01 Birgitta Jónsdóttir, adopted on 19 October 2011, which in connection with access to personal data protection, underlines the need to protect the right to seek, receive and impart information freely as a necessary condition for democracy.