From Emma Martins, Data Protection Commissioner.
IT seems apparent that there are some misconceptions relating to the proposed Digital Switchover (Disclosure of Information) (Jersey) Law (JEP, 20 November) and I would like the opportunity to clarify certain aspects of the scheme.
I was approached by the Economic Development Department some time ago when they wanted to consult this office about the proposals. I was of the view that the disclosure of personal data relating to Jersey residents who qualify for assistance for the digital switchover in 2010 was going to be possible, but a number of important measures would need to be put in place.
I made it absolutely clear that all such processing of data must be carried out in compliance with the Data Protection (Jersey) Law 2005. The officers acknowledged that completely. At that time, I advised that it may well be preferable to seek a legislative route for the processing, as they have done in the UK, Guernsey and Isle of Man. This ensures maximum transparency of the intentions, as well as an opportunity to include specific penalties for those who breach the requirements.
I am pleased that the department took my comments on board and opted for the legislative route.
The draft is appropriate and I am particularly impressed with the serious way in which it deals with penalties. This is an extremely important deterrent.
Notwithstanding the legal basis for the processing of data, each and every individual who is eligible for assistance will be informed of the scheme and asked for his or her consent prior to any disclosure being made.
This is a fundamental aspect of compliance with the data protection requirements. This key point seems to have been absent from recent discussions, but it is crucial if we are to talk about the fairness and lawfulness of the scheme.
Further, work is under way to draw up a processing agreement between the parties which will set out the detail of the security and confidentiality requirements. I am confident that the scheme as it stands complies with all the requirements of the Data Protection (Jersey) Law 2005.
The provision of assistance to those that need it in respect of the switchover is of great importance to the individuals concerned in all affected jurisdictions.
One could imagine the headlines if the disclosures had not been agreed because it was deemed unlawful.
While it is easy to highlight examples of government departments not stepping up to the plate on issues of data security and compliance, this is one example where they have done the necessary preparatory legal work to ensure appropriate protection of individuals rights.
I think it is important that the public are given the whole picture and reassured that their personal data is being handled properly.