ISTANBUL – Turkish Daily News
Many are puzzled by various advertisements coming to their cellular phones as a short message from firms they did not even know existed. Others feel uncomfortable when they give out information about their health status in their work place because they cannot foresee whether their employers will share it with others or not.
Now a new draft law still being debated in the relevant parliamentary commission aims to prevent any abuses of personal data such as addresses, telephone numbers or e-mail address that individuals share with any institution or private enterprise. �The draft Law for Protecting Personal Data's philosophy is to protect human rights,� said Leyla Keser Berber, a member of the parliamentary sub-commission founded to prepare the law. Keser is also the head of the Information Technology Law Research Center at Bilgi University.
The draft law aims to protect the personal data of individuals and regulates the share of that data. �We will not have ad messages to our mobile phones or not to deal with junk e-mails filling out our mailboxes,� Keser said of how the law would affect Turkish daily life.
Not only simple data
However, it is not only e-mail addresses or telephone numbers that fall within the scope of the draft law. Individual information, from details about one's ethnic roots and religious beliefs to political thoughts or sexual orientation, is defined as sensitive personal data in the draft regulation, and this is where most of the debate around the law is centered. There were media stories and some expert opinions critical of the draft because it makes it easier for the state to keep records of individuals' data that might undermine their dignity. The debates about the issue reached their peak when gendarmerie forces demanded the parliamentary sub-commission allow security forces access to sensitive data in case of security needs.
�The draft law for protecting personal data prevents the individual from being transparent in front of the state,� said Keser. Contrary to criticism, it prevents the state from learning any personal data about the individual and leaves it to the individual's choice whether or not to share personal data, she said.
The draft law prohibits accessing personal data as a rule, but does give some exceptions. In cases of protecting state security, public benefit or the need to prevent any crime, the draft law allows the state to access data. Sensitive data is also prohibited from being accessed; however, the draft text also offers some exceptions to that rule. Along with the written permission of the individual to access the data, the draft allows the real or legal person that has the sensitive data to access it in case of a need to use the rights and authorities and fulfill the responsibilities the law gives to him.
The greatest difficulty would be with the possibility of sharing the data, according to lawyer Fikret İlkiz. Criticizing the exceptions to the rules about sharing the data, İlkiz said it is difficult to explain the sharing of data with general concepts like fulfilling a responsibility the law gives, in an interview with private NTVMSNBC news site. The Turkey Informatics Foundation's general secretary, Behçet Envarlı, criticized the exceptions to the law as well. �The law states the ways to protect personal data but immediately after that, it brings exceptions,� he said, �There are many exceptions in the draft.� This means that the state protects the data but will not show mercy if it is necessary to access the data, according to Envarlı.
This draft law has been on the legislative agenda since 2003 and the Justice Ministry is working in cooperation with the European Union on the law. The Justice Ministry watched others work on similar laws in Europe and their application, while data protection experts have come to Turkey to cooperate with the ministry. It is a law that Turkey is already late to have, Keser said.