Flurry of Complaints by Citizens- Marija Maleš
As the election campaign gathers momentum, the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance Mr. Rodoljub Sabic has been receiving an increasing number of citizens' complaints against party-political activists who visit them at home during their door-to-door campaigns and put them in an awkward situation. What upsets them the most is the fact that those activists have access to their full personal data.
We have recently been receiving frequent phone and electronic enquiries and formal complaints by citizens who see certain actions by party-political activists as a nuisance, violation of privacy or even violation of the Personal Data Protection Law, because the activists appear to have the full set of their personal data – Commissioner Sabic said for "Blic" daily.
Mr. Sabic said it was indicative that party-political activists had full access not only to complete personal data of the citizens they visit, but also of all other persons with registered residence at their address. Any use of personal data files, in particular those held by public authorities, such as electoral rolls etc., for any purpose other than that for which they were created constitutes inadmissible data processing, which is a punishable infringement and can even be qualified as a criminal offence – Mr. Sabic pointed out.
In addition to vast amounts of propaganda littering the citizens' mailboxes, nearly all political parties have resorted to visiting their voters during the campaign. MPs from various parties have confirmed that this door-to-door campaign is taking place, but none of them seem to think it violates the law in any way.
However, a citizen residing at the Stari Grad municipality in Belgrade who wished to remain anonymous told the "Blic" daily that people who identified themselves as activists of the Democratic Party visited her in her apartment and asked whether she supported Mayor Dragan Djilas. "I asked whether they were conducting an opinion poll for the forthcoming elections, but they said 'No'. They also took my personal information, address and apartment number and asked for my phone number. I was uncomfortable and somewhat frightened because I live alone" – she said.
Another citizen told us he was visited by activists of the Serbian Progressive Party, who asked whether he would vote for their party. "I said I would not, but they toned down my answer, which frightened me to a certain extent, because I would not like anyone to blackmail me later on account of that" – he said.
The Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection has announced that "inspection procedure will be initiated in certain cases". However, he explained that, in view of the modest staff available to him, he called on and expected of all political parties and above all of public authorities to make their contribution towards the attainment of standards enshrined in the Personal Data Protection Law.
Inserted file: Violation of the law
Commissioner Sabic explained that such actions contravened the standards set out in the law. – Citizens are understandably upset by the fact that, although they are not members of any political party and have not consented to any use of their personal data, party-political activists can obtain those data and use them for various purposes, including what some believe are lists of disobedient and obedient citizens, and they rightly recognize this as a violation of the law – Mr. Sabic said.
Complaints at an all-time high
In November alone, the Commissioner's Office registered 530 new cases, as opposed to 437 during the whole of 2005.