Government promises openness on data banks

The government, institutions and private companies should give everyone a yearly detailed account about which data they are keeping about us and what they are doing with these data. This appeal has been launched by the State Secretary for Privacy, Bart Tommelein (Flemish liberal). The government will set the right example.

The State Secretary gives the example of a discount card at your local supermarket. It allows you to get a discount on certain products, but it's also interesting from a commercial point of view for companies, which can in this way gather detailed information about what we are buying.

We should at least know which data are being kept of us and what they could be used for, argues Tommelein. For that purpose, every Belgian should receive a so-called "privacy account" on a yearly basis. Tommelein argues that we are often not aware of which data are being kept from us, and thinks that this ought to change. "Let's start with the government. The government should set the right example. We will let the people know in which data bases their names have been stored, and what we are actually doing with these data", Tommelein told the VRT.

"In a second phase, we will request the same effort from private companies. Sometimes we know that our data are being kept, but we don't always realise what these can be used for." Tommelein even wants to go one step further. "People also have the right to ask to be removed from a certain data base, if they wish to or if they don't want their private data to be used in any way." He wants to adapt privacy legislation for that purpose, but it is not clear when this could happen.