Tuesday, May 28, 2013

European Union Draft Regulation on Privacy Rights-May Effect Access to Genealogically Relevant Documents

Posted by: Jan Meisels Allen



Earlier this May the civil liberties committee of the European Parliament met to discuss the latest draft of Europe’s Data Protection Regulation.  The proposals for the overhaul of the European Union’s [EU] data protection laws come from the European Commission. The original laws date from 1995, and need to be updated for the Internet Age. According to Wikipedia the scope of the proposed regulation  update, “applies if the data controller or processor (organization) or the data subject (person) is based in the EU. Furthermore (and unlike the current Directive) the Regulation also applies to organizations based outside the European Union if they process personal data of EU residents”.  The European Union defines personal data as “ any information relating to an individual, whether it relates to his or her private, professional or public life. It can be anything from a name, a photo, an email address, bank details, posts on social networking websites, medical information, or a computer’s IP address."  Go to:

The plan is to create one directly applicable regulation to replace 27 different national data protection and privacy laws. There is no consensus as to the public services aspects and the expected vote on May 29 has been postponed—probably to late June or mid July. Some members want a unified regulation, others want to leave it to the individual countries to decide how they interpret access to public services. Some believe the proposal strengthens the individuals rights and others are concerned what services may no longer be accessible to businesses including internet companies.  To read more about the delayed vote go to: http://www.pcworld.com/article/2038072/eu-data-protection-vote-delayed-again.html

At its April 2013 meeting in Amsterdam, the Steering Committee of the Section of Professional Associations of the International Council on Archives (ICA SPA) expressed its concern about the draft European Data Protection Regulation. Their concern is that  it will result in the destruction of personal data.  They also refer people to the French Association of Archivists AAF.  To read their concern and for the link to the French Association of Archivists and what they suggest go to: http://www.ica.org/?lid=14318 .
(It is written in English)  The French archivists state the reason for the European Parliament proposal  including the provision on organizations based outside of the European Union is to prevent internet companies from retaining and using personal information. They believe data needs to be preserved with controlled access.

Why is this of interest to the genealogical community?  The French archivists state it could mean destruction of university, land employment records and more.  According to a German Law firm, MLGroup, processing of personal data will require obtaining specific and explicit consent by individuals mentioned  in the records for the processing of their data (Opt-in), other than explicitly allowing the processing of personal data See:. http://www.mlawgroup.de/news/publications/detail.php?we_objectID=227  (written in English)  As genealogists we have seen a less than desirable outcome when countries have opted for an “opt-in” for information to be shared, such as the more recent censuses in Canada and Australia.  Other provisions that the ML Group mention: parental consent requirement for processing of data of individuals under the age of 13; establishment of new privacy rights including data subject's "right of portability" and the "right to be forgotten", MLGroup says the proposed regulation defines these new rights as: The "right of portability" will allow a transfer of all data from one provider to another upon request, for example transfer of a social media profile or email, whereas the "right to be forgotten" will allow people to wipe the history clean.


Jan Meisels Allen
IAJGS Vice President
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

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