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GUARANTEE FOR 'PRINCIPLE OF CONSENT' NEEDED IN EU DATA PROTECTION REGIME

16 Jan 2013

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions today has insisted that current European Union deliberations on a proposed new Data Protection Regulation reinforce and guarantee the principle of consent in relation to data collected by employers in the workplace.

Speaking ahead of the January 17-18 meeting of European Ministers for Justice & Home Affairs (EU Justice & Home Affairs Council), as part of Ireland’s EU Presidency, Congress Legal Affairs Officer, Esther Lynch said: “Special measures are needed to protect valid consent in the context of the employment relationship.

“Congress is calling on MEPS and the Irish Presidency to ensure that the new Data Protection Regulation reinforces the principle that consent is freely given before data is collected, processed or used by requiring the collective consent of the whole workforce rather than leaving it to individual workers to make their own case.

“The proposed new Regulation needs to take account of changes in the EU legal framework, especially the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights, so that practices such as ‘blacklisting’ and the use of surveillance technologies to interfere in workers right to organise or to discriminate against workers is prohibited in practice as well as in theory.

Ms Lynch pointed out that the proposed Data Protection Regulation (DPR) will apply to all processing of personal data across the EU, including worker’s personal data.

“Employers collect a huge range of information on their employees: from CCTV records, information on phone use, data on website use, email traffic, health records, information about the family situations, trade union membership, GPS in mobile devices or vehicles trackers, drug and alcohol tests, biometric keys and lie detector tests and demands for Facebook and other social media account passwords have all featured in the recent past.

“Workers on their own, without the protection of their union are unlikely to be able to mount an effective defence of their individual data protection rights when faced with employers’ demands to introduce new monitoring and surveillance methods. They need assistance and protection,” Ms Lynch said.

The Congress Submission to the EU Commission on Data Protection, is available to download here