"Privacy Week“ – On the Occasion of the International Data Privacy Day
Citizens' privacy is underestimated, not only by courts and prosecutor's offices, but also by the citizens themselves. Prosecutors hardly ever initiate proceedings for violations of the right to privacy, even in cases of massive data breaches (for example, the COVID patient database), and citizens are still unaware of the importance of institutional protection of personal data.
Such is the atmosphere in which we mark this year's International Data Privacy Day, January 28, is a joint conclusion made by a group of civil society organizations dealing with this topic, who gathered this week to organize the "Privacy Week", a series of online discussions on personal data protection in various spheres.
The violation of this right remains almost invisible in the practice of prosecutor's offices and courts, which is proved by the fact that in the last five years there have been only two convictions and 28 initiated cases. It was only in two cases that the public prosecutor's office considered that there were reasons to initiate proceedings, while the other 26 cases were private lawsuits of citizens. Public prosecutor's offices ignore the Commissioner’s reports, given that none of 17 criminal charges issued by this institution have received an epilogue. These are just some of the conclusions of the analysis of the actions of the prosecutor's office and courts in the period from 2015 to 2020, which was presented by Partners Serbia, one of the initiators of this online event, during the “Privacy Week”. Ana Toskic Cvetinovic, from Partners Serbia, believes that the only way for this right to gain importance in society is for the citizens to continue to file criminal charges or seek damages for violation of this right.
In addition to judicial protection of this right, what was also discussed was the inadequate protection of citizens' health data during the pandemic. The state's efforts to use new technologies for a more up-to-date fight against the pandemic were praised, but its incompetence was also criticized in terms of protection of citizens' privacy. The database of COVID patients, which should have had the highest level of privacy protection, was "leaked" to the public, in a completely amateur way.
The new Draft Law on Social Cards announced over the years as a way of registering citizens' social status, and even better monitoring of the position of the most vulnerable groups, was another topic of the discussions. There are many potential risks to the privacy of vulnerable categories of citizens that the legislator must take into account when learning from previous mistakes made by other institutions, neglecting the protection of citizens' privacy.
Representatives of the Office of the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection are taking part in all the discussions. According to them, the prosecutors are not yet fully educated to recognize the violation of privacy rights, while the public and private companies do not fully understand the importance of privacy in their work, nor are they aware of the consequences that may result. By the end of this event, there will be more talk about the violation of the right to privacy of children victims of violence and trafficking, as well as the queer community.
“Privacy Week” is organized by associations Partners Serbia, SHARE Foundation, A11 – Initiative for Economic and Social Rights, ATINA – Citizens' Association for Combatting Trafficking in Human Beings and All Forms of Gender-based Violence, Da se zna! And Belgrade Open School (BOS). The manifestation is a part of the project Reclaiming Privacy: A Tool to Fight Oppression, which is implemented with the support of the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Serbia and the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue.