Personal data protection and privacy

Data protection

The centralisation of information through the computerisation of various records has made the right of privacy a fundamental concern for the Council of Europe.

The Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data, reconciles the free flow of information with privacy and data protection concerns.

It provides safeguards concerning the fair and lawful collection and automatic processing of data, imposes strict conditions on the use of information and gives guarantees of information and access for the individuals whose data are being processed.

It remains the first and only binding international legal instrument with a worldwide scope of application in this field and is open to any country, including those which are not members of the organisation.

In recent years, the team of experts which forms the Convention's monitoring committee (the T-PD) has taken note of concerns over the use of biometric techniques, smart cards and videosurveillance and produced guidelines on the application of data protection principles to these technologies.

The possible “interlinking” of state information reservoirs with those of non-governmental agencies such as banks, insurance companies and airlines is another challenge. The growing transfer of information across borders via the internet has also raised questions about the rise of ‘profiling,' the risks children face when surfing the internet and the emergence of a “surveillance society.”

Henceforth, the Monitoring Committee will keep a watchful eye on all of these questions.

Council of Europe points to the Data Protection Convention as global standard

At the 33rd international conference of data protection and privacy commissioners, Mexico City, 2-3 November 2011, the Council of Europe pushed for global recognition of its Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data (ETS n° 108) as the only practicable and ready-made option for global privacy standards.

“Everyone has a right to privacy. Everyone has the right to control the collection, use and disclosure of information about him or her. This right is the foundation of other freedoms and liberties that define open societies, in particular freedom of expression,” said Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

Conference in Vienna: "Our Internet - Our rights, Our freedoms"

A high level conference organised by the Council of Europe and the Federal Ministry of European and International Affairs of Austria on the theme “Our Internet – Our rights, Our freedoms” took place in Vienna on 24 and 25 November 2011. Council of Europe member states, the private sector, parliamentarians, civil society and the Internet community looked for ways to give better protection to human rights, democracy and the rule of law online.

  • What are the legal standards needed to protect privacy online effectively?
  • How can interference or harm to the Internet affect rights such as freedom of expression and information?
  • What are the next steps in fighting cybercrime?
  • How should children be empowered to use the Internet safely?
  • How can users be empowered to exercise their rights?
  • Conference website

Web Content Display

Council of Europe adopts recommendation on profiling and data protection
The recommendation, which was adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 25 November 2010, is the first text to lay down internationally-agreed minimum privacy standards to be implemented through national legislation and self-regulation. Profiling allows observing, collecting and matching people’s personal data online, from which can benefit both individuals, and the economy and society. However their use without precautions and specific safeguards could severely damage human dignity. (more...)

Justice Ministers look to the protection of data and privacy in the third millennium
At the occasion of the Council of Europe Conference of Ministers of Justice, which took place in November 2010 in Istanbul (Turkey), ministers invited the Committee of Ministers to consider data protection as a priority for the Council of Europe’s future work. (more)

The Commissioner for Human Rights reports on data protection : ''Strong data protection rules are needed to prevent the emergence of a surveillance society''

Reference website