Romanies' fears of their official census not groundless

Prague, 10. 1. 2006, 9:25 (CTK)

Romanies feel threatened by the planned government census of their population in the Czech Republic and they have good reasons to feel so, Karel Neuwirt, former head of the Personal Data Protection Office (UOOU), writes in the daily Pravo today.

The new monitoring system of the Romany community, planned to be effective as of 2008, generated a heated discussion. The supporters of the system are mainly defending its necessity. It is evident that the government needs better information on the community than that received in the latest population census in 2001. In the census, 11,000 Czechs declared themselves Romanies, but it is estimated that some 250,000 Romanies live in the Czech Republic.

The government declares that it will be able to better help Romanies to be adapted to society and improve their living conditions thanks to the precise information.
But the problem is that the government or the organisers of the system have not presented sufficient guarantees to Romanies that the data obtained will not be misused, the author says. The promoters of the system merely use the argument that the system will be anonymous. However, anonymity is not a sufficient guarantee. Moreover, it has not freed Romanies of their doubts. Even if data are anonymous, in other words, if the names and addresses are not included, people may be identified indirectly. Experts on the protection of privacy should therefore assess whether indirect identification of individuals is possible using the data from the planned monitoring system, Neuwirt concludes in Pravo.