The Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner has in particular the following tasks:
- he supervises federal bodies
- he supervises private bodies
- he advises private bodies
- he assists federal and cantonal authorities in the field of data protection
- he gives his opinion on draft Confederation legislation
- he cooperates with data protection authorities in Switzerland and abroad
- he informs the public about his findings and recommendations
- he maintains and publishes the Register for Data Files
For the accomplishment of his tasks, the Commissioner can investigate facts on his own initiative or at request of a third party. Based upon this investigations, he can issue recommendations.
In the private sector, the Commissioner has mainly a consultative function. Particulary, he explains and comments the legal provisions about Data Protection, offers his advice for the registration of data files, for the registration of transborder dataflows, and for requests about of the right of access.
He also gives advice in questions concerning legal problems or technical aspects of data security. In conflict situations between private bodies or between private persons and federal bodies, he tries to find solutions.
Principle of transparency (freedom of information)
The principle of transparency in the federal administration is enshrined in a federal law. Accordingly, the Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner (FDPIC) has been assigned a number of functions:
- he informs and advises private citizens on how to gain access to official documents
- he advises the various administrative authorities and federal departments on the implementation of the Transparency Act
- he acts as mediator in the event of a disagreement
- he sends written recommendations to the persons concerned
- he gives an opinion on draft legal texts prepared by the federal authorities that have an impact on the principle of transparency
The principle of transparency establishes an enforceable right of access to the official documents of the federal administration and the parliamentary services. The law applies to all official documents that have been produced since 1 July 2006. Any individual may ask to see the documents in question without having to provide any reason for doing so. Right of access may be limited if the document may compromise an overriding public or private interest. If access is refused, the authority must justify its decision.
If an authority restricts, postpones or refuses access to a document, the FDPIC may at the request of the petitioner initiate an arbitration procedure. The purpose of such a procedure is to permit a rapid agreement between the parties. Should this fail, the FDPIC may set out his conclusions in a recommendation.
Furthermore, the FDPIC verifies the implementation, effectiveness and cost of the Transparency Act, and submits a report to the Federal Council on a regular basis.