The convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to the Automatic Processing of Personal Data of the Council of Europe, seen as a major improvement in privacy protection, is submitted to parliament for ratification.
The Turkish government has forwarded the Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data of the Council of Europe to the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TBMM) for ratification, in a move to increase the protection of confidentiality for Turkish citizens. The convention focuses on extending the scope of people's rights and freedoms with special emphasis on personal privacy. It has not been ratified until now even though Turkey signed it in 1981.
The ratification of the convention will mean that crucial data of citizens including identification numbers, religion and personal data will receive exclusive protection against those who access, store and exploit confidential personal data for an individual's or group's interests. This is especially important for Turkey's religious and ethnic minorities and those who have differing political views who have consistently been blacklisted and have faced discrimination in the past. The comprehensive scope of the convention is especially important as it defines "personal data" as any information relating to an identified or identifiable individual, which will cover everything from personal identification numbers to the information in a doctor's medical report. Accordingly, it calls responsible parties to take the necessary measures in its domestic law to give effect to the basic principles for data protection set out in the convention.
The main purpose of the convention, according to its preamble is "to secure in the territory of each party for every individual, whatever his nationality or residence, respect for his rights and fundamental freedoms, and in particular his right to privacy, with regard to automatic processing of personal data relating to him." A total of 47 countries have ratified the treaty since 1981 but Turkey has not brought it to its legislative agenda for ratification until the 2010 constitutional reforms initiated by the Justice and Development Party government.
In the context of Turkish politics, the convention is expected to have significant implications in terms of social media, national security and protection of Turkey's minorities under the scope of the government's reconciliation package and new proposals. For instance, protection of personal data became a serious concern earlier in 2014 when social media site Twitter consistently refused to abide by Turkish court orders to remove content violating user confidentiality and privacy. On the other hand, agents of the Gülen Movement, which is led by Fethullah Gülen who lives in Pennsylvania in self-imposed exile, have allegedly violated personal privacy through wiretapping, the recording and tracking of thousands of people including state officials and posing an imminent threat to Turkey's national security and wellbeing. Likewise, the convention will guarantee and increase the protection of Turkey's minorities including Kurds, Alevis and others whose ethnic and religious background will not be disclosed, providing a safer environment for all.
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