29th Annual Report 2021/2022: Lack of respect for privacy
Bern, 28.06.2022 - In his annual report published today, the Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner notes widespread indifference towards protecting citizens' data and a growing disregard for privacy. The deficiencies in processing sensitive personal data that have become more frequent on health platforms and the tendency, now also perceptible in Europe, to discredit the public's right to encrypt their data as an abuse of freedoms, are evidence of this development.
The Commissioner has today published his annual report for the period from 01.04.2021 to 31.03.2022. COVID control measures continued to severely restrict citizens’ freedom and privacy in this reporting year. Nevertheless, from the perspective of data protection, digital Switzerland was able to achieve important successes with the COVID app and the COVID certificate, including its ‘light’ version. Thanks to the decentralised and data-saving design of these tools, the transmission of citizen data to the federal administration was avoided. The Confederation can now adopt this technolog-ical recipe for success in the new edition of a state-recognised electronic identity (E-ID).
Health platforms in troubleAt the same time, digital Switzerland is licking the wounds opened up by the technically and organisationally unsuccessful operation of certain applications used in contact tracing or for registers for vaccinations, organ donations and breast implants. After investigative journalists revealed disturbing technical defects, the FDPIC's supervisory procedures brought further shortcomings to light, particularly with regard to the quality of the personal data processed. In a case involving vaccination data relating to around 300,000 people processed by the meineimpfungen foundation, which has since been liquidated by the bankruptcy authorities, the state finally starts an attempt to rescue the data after the Commissioner recommended that the data would otherwise have to be deleted. However, it took ten months from the FDPIC publishing an extensive investigation report on the matter for the case to be resolved.
Right to encryption discredited as an abuse of liberty
The FDPIC notes with concern that governments and security authorities in Europe are now also demanding preventive access to citizens' personal communications. The content of data traffic from messenger apps and emails, including images, could become the subject of state surveillance without the requirement of a court order in individual cases. As is so often the case, this serious assault on citizens' privacy is justified by the need to fight terrorism and paedophile crime. In order to enforce their vision of surveillance, its promoters want to prohibit private individuals from effectively encrypting individual communications with anyone, a move the Commissioner opposes. He points out that crime is inherent in every society. Governments may wish that using encryption software for any reason should be regarded as suspicious, but in a state where the rule of law prevails, citizens should be perfectly free to do so.
New complications in implementing freedom of information
In relation to freedom of information, the FDPIC continues to see an increase in the number of requests for access and for mediation, which poses problems for him in meeting the legal deadlines in view of the pandemic-related backlog of work. In addition, there is a new tendency in parts of the administration to complicate the informal conciliation procedure before the FDPIC by filing formalistic objections, which further impedes the reduction of backlogs.
Florence Henguely becomes the new deputy of the FDPIC
The FDPIC has been able to recruit the acting data protection commissioner of the canton of Fribourg, Florence Henguely, for the office of his deputy. Ms Henguely was born in 1983, is a French native speaker and holds a master's degree in law from the University of Fribourg. She is expected to take up her new post as Deputy Commissioner and Head of the Division Information Technology and Business Management at the FDPIC on 1 October 2022.
Information for journalists:
The Commissioner, Adrian Lobsiger, and Caroline Gloor Scheidegger, Head of the International Affairs/Cantons Division, and Sophie Haag, Deputy Head of the Data Protection Division will be available to journalists for interview.
If possible, interview requests should be sent by email before the media conference to the media office: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Address for enquiries
Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner (FDPIC), Tel. +41 58 464 94 10, email@example.com
Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner