Why an Authority?
Thanks to the rapid development of our information and communication society we work more efficiently and our everyday lives become easier. Yet this also means that it is no longer simple to know who possesses personal data and what is done with the data.
We may not always realise, but personal data processing operations play a major role in our daily live. Do you have any idea how many loyalty cards you have, and which personal data are on a customer card or fuel card? Do you know who is informed of your loans and when you end up on a black list? Which personal data are on your electronic identity card, for instance, and who can read which personal data on it? Do you also wonder why your inbox is flooded with unwanted e-mails or how someone obtained your e-mail address to send you publicity? Do you know where and when you are filmed by surveillance cameras and what is done with the footage? Does your employer have the right to trace your phone calls or read your e-mails?
In other words, not a day goes by without us disclosing our personal data to someone in one way or another. We often do so without thinking about it, because we want to benefit from the many possibilities and advantages of information and communication technologies. The reverse to the medal, however, is that this can compromise our privacy, as personal data are collected, used, communicated, retained and/or sold. We sometimes get the feeling we can no longer control our own data.
To make sure that you can trust these technologies and stay in control of your own data not only the Privacy Act has been adopted, but also the Authority has been created. The Authority supervises the way in which a body or an individual uses other individuals' personal data. As an individual, company or public administration, you can turn to us for information about data processing operations, on the one hand to find out what your rights as a data subject are, and on the other to know what your obligations are when you process data, or before you do so. More concretely this means that we can help you create databases. Moreover, the Authority mediates in the context of complaints involving data processing operations. More information about this can be found in the section on the Authority's vision and mission.
Personal data processing operations must always be involved. The Authority does not have the power to deal with privacy problems in the broadest sense of the term, for example when a body search during an airport security check goes too far, neighbours look in on you, etc.