Data protection commissioner calls for tighter controls

Video cameras are increasingly used to protect property Keystone

Current laws are failing to protect the rights of Swiss citizens to keep personal information confidential, according to the federal data protection officer. Odilo Guntern says new technology, including the Internet, is making it easier for third parties to gain access to personal data.

This content was published on June 29, 2001 - 11:12

In his annual report presented on Friday, Guntern said existing legislation and self-regulation did not go far enough to protect the rights of individuals. While welcoming the government's revision of the data protection law, he said more needed to be done.

Guntern urged companies carrying out business on the Internet to tighten up their practices and show a more responsible attitude towards personal data.

"The technologies which allow personal data to be stored, used and passed on should also be used for the protection of citizens' privacy," he said.

Guntern said that not only should personal information be treated carefully, but that in future Internet users should be asked for permission for their data to be collected, and be informed about how the information will be used. This code of conduct should not just apply to particularly sensitive information.

Another area of concern highlighted by Guntern was the monitoring by employers of workers' personal electronic mail and their use of the Internet during work time. The commissioner said such monitoring should only be carried out where an abuse had already been established.

Guntern also called for greater restraint in companies' use of surveillance cameras. In order not to infringe the right of citizens to move around without being observed, video cameras should only be used where no other means exist to ensure the protection of people and property, he said.

swissinfo with agencies

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