Curricula vitae vs Transparency equals? Do political appointments fall under data privacy?
In Cyprus there is currently a debate on the need to publish the CVs of state officials and/or board members of legal persons established under public law. Following the political appointments that have recently been made by the new Government, a strong majority seems to be formed amongst the society around the opinion that regardless of whether a legal obligation exists, the CVs of all persons appointed to serve as state officials and/or counsels or state owned board members should be made public.
The issue is of course both political and legal. That is why the local Data Protection Authority issued last month a short opinion on the issue, setting out the basic principles, namely that (a) any data processing must have a valid legal basis, (b) The publication of CVs is in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation when provided for by specific legislation and (c) In the absence of any specific legislation, it is up to each official and/or Board Member to assess whether it is appropriate to publish his/her CV. Finally, the DPA concludes that the publication of the CVs of persons holding public office serves the principle of transparency.
The DPA’s conclusion is, in my view, the correct legal approach to the matter.
On the one hand, we have the phenomenon of individuals who overnight see aspects of their private lives being publicly known because of their appointment, often in a negative or even insulting way. On the other hand, there is the legitimate need for the public to know whether a person appointed to serve in a position is qualified and/and or fit for the job. This need is legitimate for two main reasons. Firstly, because the remuneration of the persons appointed comes from taxpayers. Secondly, because for political decisions to be judged, citizens need to know.
So, as is almost always the case with privacy law, the question is a matter of balance. In other words, we need to find the balance between what and how much information we need to know, what purpose is served by disclosure thereof and, of course, whether the purpose is served by disclosing less information. For example, I find it hard to understand how public knowledge of the personal life of a person appointed to a public position serves any legitimate purpose. At the same time, I find it difficult to see how information on academic and professional qualifications as well as previous professional experience is protected by privacy law.
The issue could certainly be resolved once and for all by the law makers, in a way that the Government is obliged to publish the academic and professional qualifications and/or experience and expertise of all persons appointed and/and or otherwise hired to serve in special positions. If this is the solution, it waits to be seen.
Article provided by INPLP member: Alexia Kountouri (Tassos Papadopoulos & Associates LLC, Cyprus)
Dr. Tobias Höllwarth (Managing Director INPLP)