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Data commissioner slams hooliganism law

Data on hooligans can be passed on to third parties Keystone

A database used to combat violence and vandalism at public events has again come in for criticism by the federal data protection commissioner.

This content was published on July 2, 2007 - 17:57

A new law which provides the legal basis for the creation of a database on hooligans took effect at the beginning of the year, ahead of the 2008 Euro football championships being co-hosted by Switzerland and Austria.

The annual report of the data protection commissioner, published on Monday, points out that there are no clear regulations about the handling of data – collected by state agencies and transferred to private companies.

Hanspeter Thür said the cabinet had failed to set clear guidelines and delegated the task to a unit within the justice ministry which in turn will cooperate with organisers of sports events.

"This creates a system of sub-delegations without defining responsibilities. It is not possible to say how and when open questions can be resolved," Thür wrote in the report.

He added that the wording of the law is misleading and could give those arrested for hooliganism no legal recourse.

The new law on internal security also includes travel restrictions, restraining orders, reporting duties and detention measures.

In 2005 Switzerland started trials with a security system using biometric data to identify troublemakers.

At the time Thür warned that a law must establish who controls the data, which third parties have access, the rights of people on the database and rules against abuse of information.

Health data

During Monday's news conference Thür also repeated concerns that doctors hand on patients' details to health insurance companies.

Thür pointed out the increasing amount of sensitive electronic data stored on patients and the risk of breaches in private spheres.

He said his office had not enough capacity to carry out regular controls, reiterating criticism of the cabinet concerning a shortage of staff. He said the government had yet to create up to three-and-a-half job additional capacities, as promised.

He said the shortage of staff in his office had led to a five-month backlog in his work as a mediator and advisor for citizens who asked to consult certain documents as part of a move towards more transparency in the federal administration.

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In brief

The office of the federal date protection commissioner was set up in 1993 and currently has a staff of 20 people.

The commissioner has supervisory and advisory tasks in the field of data protection.

The commissioner gives his or her opinion on draft legislation and cooperates with data protection authorities in Switzerland and abroad.

The unit maintains and publishes the Register for Data Files.

It can also carry out investigations and issue recommendations.

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