One of the concrete data protection rights individuals enjoy in Europe are the right to access data collected on them and the right to be informed about the processing of their data.
These rights are provided under Articles 10, 11 and 12 of the Directive 95/46. However, a great emphasis is made on Article 12, which contains both the right to access and the right to confirmation of undergoing processing of personal data by a certain processor or operator.
Prof. Christopher Kuner writes in one of his books that “The rights granted to data subjects under Article 12 can present substantial difficulties for companies. First, given the distributed nature of computing nowadays, personal data may be contained in a variety of databases located in different geographic regions, so that it can be difficult to locate all the data necessary to respond to a data subject’s request. Indeed locating all the data pertaining to a particular data subject in order to allow him to know what data are being held about him to assert his rights of erasure, blockage etc. may require the data controller to comb through masses of data contained in various databases, which in itself could lead to data protection risks”.
He also writes that another source of problems with complying with Art. 12 is that Member States have transposed differently this provision with regard to the costs of access and the number of times it can be exercised. “For instance, in Finland the data controller may charge its costs in accessing the data and requests by data subjects are limited at one per year, while in UK the controller may charge a fee of up to 10 pounds for access to each entry and reasonable time must elapse between requests. This disharmony of the law creates problems for data controllers that process data of data subjects from different Member States.”
Source: Christopher Kuner, European Data Privacy Law and Online Business, Oxford University Press, 2003 (p. 71, 72)
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