11th annual report 2003/2004

Below you will find a selection of the articles included in the FDIPC's 11th annual report. If you are interested in the complete versions of the reports, please refer to the corresponding pages in German or French.


Data protection at a time of sweeping change. The fear of terrorist attacks, which it seems the western world will have to learn to live with, is seriously testing the principles of freedom upon which our democracies are premised. There is no doubt that the scourge of terrorism can only be defeated through increased worldwide co-operation. What is less clear is what forms of prevention are acceptable in a liberal democracy.

The Publication Act: risks and problems associated with the publication of personal data on the internet

Within the context of the interdepartmental consultations on the Publication Act, we were asked to give an opinion on the risks and problems created by the online publication of personal data by federal bodies. Once published, such data can be found anywhere in the world by electronic search engines without any limitation in time - or at least for several years. No personal data concerning a citizen should be published on the internet by any federal administration without careful consideration. After all, the State has a particular duty to ensure that every person's constitutional right to protection against the misuse of their personal data is respected.

Protecting one's own computer

The use of computers for email, e-commerce and e-banking, or for accessing information, is so widespread today that nobody could imagine life without them. Most users who surf the internet are not aware that their actions may jeopardize the security of their hardware and data. Recognizing the potential risk involved is a first step towards protecting oneself, and in many cases this can be done with free software programmes.

Publication of photographs and names in conjunction with electronic access systems

Electronic access and control systems, such as those used in ski resorts or other sports facilities, may not display data such as names, dates of birth etc. on a monitor that is visible to the public. If no other control systems can be used, operators may exceptionally display a photograph to verify that the person is the rightful ticket-holder. However, this may only be done in the direct vicinity of the control point.

Webcams and data protection requirements

Webcams have been in use for many years on the internet. The question has often been asked as to whether they are operated in accordance with data protection requirements. Basically, there are two legitimate ways to use them: either the cameras are positioned or configured in such a way that no individual can actually be recognized; or the persons concerned consent to their pictures being taken.

Reorganisation and refocusing of activities

As we announced in our 10th Annual Report, we have refocused our activities and restructured our Secretariat in order to strike a better balance between our advisory and supervisory duties. We believe that this will allow us to adopt a "proactive" approach to data protection issues and free up additional capacity for supervisory activities.

Further information


Order online

The complete annual Report can be ordered in german and french from the BBL, Vertrieb Publikationen, 3003 Bern, Art. Nr. 410.011