‘First to indicate interest in bio-bank were British police’

«These measures to record telephone calls, messages and e-mails – just as previous proposals on the issue by the European Commission – are incompatible with the protection of personal data. Who is defined as a terrorist? Who are the relevant authorities? The content of the terms is so vague that in the end no one can be considered innocent,» Simitis said. The imminent ratification of the decision opens the way for an official and inaugural commercial exploitation of information contained in the data banks. «(This means that) any commercial firm may make use of information on a wide range of a person’s activities,» he said. «In Frankfurt alone, telecommunications firms will collect 81 new files every day with personal information on people. In order to cover the cost, they will be able to sell the data to private firms such as insurance companies.» Bio-bank An example of undesirable exploitation of data is the case of a British bio-bank. «It was set up for the purpose of fighting serious diseases such as Alzheimer’s,» Simitis said. «The original design provided for the storage of medical and genetic data. But since the disease’s appearance is linked to ‘social’ factors, other data was added, such as place of work, way of life and the person’s general profile. The first to indicate an interest in the bio-bank were not doctors but the British police.» There have recently been developments in which US authorities have been asking for data on Europeans traveling to the United States. A few days ago a European Court of Justice prosecutor ruled that the legal foundation of the amendment was faulty and the issue has been frozen until the proper formula can be found. «The results of the Commission’s talks with the American authorities are not at all satisfactory. Although some amendments and corrections were made, there are still some unacceptable statements,» commented Simitis, who said the Council and the Commission do not work under the same rules but are competing as to who will have the final say. Proposals from the Council and the Commission are not based on shared regulations. Recently the Council protested because the Commission submitted its own proposal on recording telephone calls. Disputes such as these put democracy in the EU at risk. Several EU member states, including Greece, are already releasing polls indicating people’s desire for further measures. A recent VPRC poll for Kathimerini showed that 94 percent of the people want more policing of the streets. Simitis attributes this high percentage to the increased sense of security provided, but notes that more police create more of a sense of security than more actual security. «Whether we like it or not, our behavior changes when we are being monitored,» he said. «A recent survey in France showed that those aged over 40 were in favor of more protection of personal data, in contrast to younger people who seem to be indifferent. The latter use new technology to a degree that accustoms them to the idea that Big Brother is everywhere.» Simitis called for a public debate aimed at drawing attention to the risks inherent in the continual violation of personal data. «The uncontrolled collection of information results in manipulation,» he said. «If sensitive personal data is not protected, a democratic society cannot exist. We have to restrict the data we collect and accessibility to it. We should explain to those who are affected, chiefly younger people, the consequences of the unrestricted collection of data.»