Data protection oils the machine of governance

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Our commissioner Emma Martins has sent this letter to the Editor of The Guernsey Press in response to their Opinion piece on 10 December 2019:

“Thank you for your Opinion piece (10 Dec.) highlighting how ‘data protection’ are “two of the most misunderstood and misused words in governance” and how the Law should not be “a barrier to honest, open and timely scrutiny of government”. 

Data protection has indeed been largely misunderstood and misrepresented, which has long been a source of frustration and sadness for those of us that work in this area. Frustration that the Law is blamed so readily, and sadness because it is a law which is about treating all individuals with dignity and respect. As the Bailiwick’s data protection regulator we work hard to encourage better understanding and appreciation of the Law, why it matters and how it can be complied with. Data protection laws do not prevent legitimate activities by government or any other organisations; they seek to ensure that data about us all is treated with robust governance standards and processes.

Doing things well, and embedding high standards of data governance, takes thought and effort, because the impact on individuals when things are not done well can be significant. When the legislation is cited as the reason good things can’t happen we must all stop and think. When we give our personal data to others, whether our bank, doctor or government, we expect them to handle it properly, as the Law requires. We cannot claim rights for ourselves that we deny others.

Our office does not seek to comment or interfere with ongoing political matters. We seek to ensure the Law is applied in a mature and considered way which, contrary to being the ‘glue in the works’, is the oil in the machine of good governance.”