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January 2004, updated: July 2005
The following material has been produced after consultations with the Ministry of Interior of the Czech Republic.
One of the frequent questions addressed to the Office for Personal Data Protection concerns correct procedure in providing information from the minutes taken at meetings of municipal or regional assemblies or councils, and from the resolutions adopted by such bodies (i.e. the representative bodies of municipalities, regions and the City of Prague) – correct procedure being such as does not run counter to the principles of personal data protection. Sometimes the questions reflect mutually different viewpoints of assembly members, council members and municipal office employees. The Office for Personal Data Protection in co-operation with the Department for Local Administration of the Ministry of Interior has formulated its position on the subject. The position reflects the legal status quo at 31 December 2003.
The basis for answering the aforementioned questions can be found in relevant provisions of Act No. 128/2000 Coll., on Municipalities, as amended (hereinafter referred to as “Municipalities Act”), Act No. 131/2000 Coll., on the Capital City of Prague, as amended, (hereinafter referred to as “Prague City Act”) and Act No. 129/2000 Coll., on Regions (regional government), as amended (hereinafter referred to as “Regions Act”).
As stipulated by Article 93(2) of the Municipalities Act, Article 60(4) of the Prague City Act and Article 42 of the Regions Act, meetings of municipal or regional assemblies are public, which means that anyone may attend. The minutes, taken of every assembly or council meeting, are available for inspection at the municipal office, as is the requirement of Article 95(2) of the Municipalities Act. The same applies to the capital city of Prague, with the minutes deposited at the Prague City Hall (Article 65 of the Prague City Act). The minutes taken at regional assembly meetings are available for inspection at the relevant regional office (Article 43 of the Regions Act). The minutes from assembly meetings and assembly resolutions may be inspected and extracted by the following authorised persons:
a) citizens with permanent residence on the territory of the municipality, the region or the capital city of Prague, aged 18 and older (Article 16(2)(e) of the Municipalities Act, Article 7(e) and Article 8(e) of the Prague City Act and Article 12(2)(c) of the Regions Act);
b) individuals owning real property (buildings, apartments, land) on the territory of the municipality, the region, the capital city of Prague or one of its administrative divisions (Article 16(3) of the Municipalities Act, Article 9(2) of the Prague City Act, Article 12(3) of the Regions Act);
c) foreign nationals with permanent residence on the territory of the municipality, the City of Prague or one of its administrative districts, the region, or a military district on the territory of the region, if stipulated so by an international treaty binding on the Czech Republic, which has been published in the Collection of Laws (Article 17 of the Municipalities Act, Article 9(1) of the Prague City Act, Article 13 of the Regions Act).
Other individuals and legal persons may acquire information about the meetings of the assembly of a municipality, the City of Prague, an administrative division of the City of Prague or a region on the basis of Act No. 106/1999 Coll., on Free Access to Information, as amended (hereinafter referred to as “Act on Free Access to Information”). In doing so they must respect provisions of Article 2(3) of the said law, which stipulates that the law does not apply to providing data and information under a special legal regulation. The term “special legal regulation” used here applies to Act No. 101/2000 Coll., on Personal Data Protection (hereinafter referred to as “Personal Data Protection Act”). This means that when information from the minutes of an assembly meeting is provided under the Act on Free Access to Information, the amount of personal data contained in the minutes must be reduced or the data must be anonymised. The difference between citizens who are authorised, under the Municipalities Act, the Prague City Act or the Regions Act, to inspect minutes taken at assembly meetings and assembly resolutions, and other persons lies also in the fact that the former are entitled to obtain the aforementioned information free of charge (they may themselves inspect the documents and make excerpts from them). With other persons the municipality is authorised under Article 17 of the Act on Free Access to Information to demand payment of the cost of providing a concrete piece of information (the municipality is obliged to make photocopies of documents, excerpts from materials etc.). The municipality is also obliged to provide information from council or assembly meetings, including personal data mentioned at the meetings, to state bodies or bodies responsible for penal proceedings if the aforementioned bodies are authorised by law to demand such information and data for the performance of their specific tasks.
The meetings of a municipal or regional council are restricted, i.e. they may be attended only by persons listed in the Municipalities Act, the Prague City Act or the Regions Act (Article 101(1) of the Municipalities Act, Article 70(1) of the Prague City Act, Article 58(1) of the Regions Act). Parts of minutes of a municipal council meeting are adopted resolutions (Article 101(3) of the Municipalities Act, Article 70 (3) of the Prague City Act, Article 58 (3) of the Regions Act). The minutes of a municipal council meeting must be deposited at the municipal office for inspection by municipal assembly members (Article 101(3) of the Municipalities Act). The minutes that are necessary to take within 10 days after termination of meeting must be placed on deposit at regional office for the purpose of regional councillors inspection (Article 58 (3) of the Regions Act). The Prague City Act only provides that “the minutes are available for inspection at the Prague City Hall” (Article 70 (3) of the Prague City Act). In accordance with Article 17(5) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, this provision may be interpreted universally as granting the aforementioned right to everyone. The right to inspect resolutions of a municipal or regional council and make excerpts from them is granted to persons mentioned above, who are also authorised to inspect assembly resolutions and minutes of assembly meetings. Other individuals and legal entities are entitled to information about council deliberations and resolutions on the basis of the Act on Free Access to Information. The principles to be observed here are the same as those that govern providing information about meetings, deliberations and resolutions of an assembly.
As opposed to providing access to (allowing inspection of) the minutes of an assembly meeting or to assembly resolutions, as well as to the minutes of a council meeting or a council resolution, which is allowed under specific conditions stipulated by law, the Municipalities Act, the Prague City Act, and the Regions Act do not make any reference to the publication of these documents.
The Office for Personal Data Protection has arrived at the conclusion that personal data contained in the minutes of assembly meetings and in assembly resolutions, as well as in the minutes of council meetings or in council resolutions are mostly the product of various previous data processing at municipal offices, regional offices or the Prague City Hall. It is therefore a result of systematic data collection. Consequently, the protection of personal data contained in the aforementioned minutes and resolutions is subject to the provisions of the Personal Data Protection Act. This means that municipalities, regions and the City of Prague do not have to fulfil the notification duty under Article 16 of the Personal Data Protection Act, since they qualify for the exception defined in Article 18(b) of the same Act.
The right to inspect the minutes of assembly or council meetings as well as assembly or council resolutions, granted by the respective provisions of the Municipalities Act, the Prague City Act and the Regions Act, means that the aforementioned bodies are obliged to make available information containing personal data. It is therefore what Article 4(e) defines as providing access to personal data to a specific group of persons. In this case, access to personal data is provided on the basis of legal provisions and it is therefore not at variance with the principles of personal data protection stipulated by the Personal Data Protection Act. The same applies to the processing of the said data that precedes inspection, i.e. to references made to the data during discussions at assembly or council meetings, which must not exceed the legal limits of personal data processing.
Article 17(5) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms (hereinafter referred to as “Charter”) obliges state bodies and territorial self-government bodies to “inform the public in an adequate manner about their activities”. This provision of the Charter is the basis for Article 2(1) of the Act on Free Access to Information. It can be said in general that the existing legislation does not hinder the publication of the minutes of assembly or council meetings, nor of assembly or council resolutions, taking into account, of course, Article 2(3) of the Act on Free Access to Information.
With regard to personal data contained in the aforementioned documents of the municipality, the City of Prague or the region one may distinguish between two ways of providing information from assembly or council resolutions or from the minutes of assembly or council meetings. One is the inspection of the documents by persons listed in the relevant provision of the law. The other involves providing access to the data to other persons or publishing the data (in the press, on the Internet and in other media).
When the documents are submitted for inspection to persons authorised by law, they must contain all material concerning the matters discussed, including personal data referred to in such discussions. E.g. in case of a sale or other legal act concerning municipal or regional property or the property of the capital city of Prague, the individual in question must be clearly identified in the assembly or council resolutions to make the legal act of sale or other disposal of the property sufficiently clear and concretised from the start to leave no room for objections that it might be void for uncertainty. Under Article 5(2)(a) as well as under Article 5(2)(b) of the Act on Personal Data Protection, personal data in these cases may be processed by the data controller (municipality) even without the consent of the data subject.
Another matter is the publication of information from assembly or council meetings and from assembly or council resolutions on the Internet, in the press and in other media, or providing information to other persons under the Act on Free Access to Information. In these cases information containing personal data is being made available to an unlimited number of persons. The municipality, the City of Prague or the region are obliged to ensure compliance with the requirements of the Personal Data Protection Act and anonymise the published data for the said purpose, or reduce their amount in the published version of the document. When anonymising or reducing personal data in the aforementioned circumstances it must be ensured, however, that the communication in question can still serve its purpose.
Example of possible anonymisation with short comments is at the end of this text.
As for publishing modified versions (records, excerpts) of the minutes of assembly or council meetings and assembly or council resolutions, the Office for Personal Data Protection recommends that the publishing institution inform the public that the publication of the modified version of the document is due to the need to keep the amount of published personal data within reasonable limits as required by the Personal Data Protection Act.
Compliance with the Personal Data Protection Act and with Act No. 140/1961 Coll., the Penal Code (Article 178, Unauthorised Treatment of Personal Data) in providing information under the Act on Free Access to Information and in the publication of municipal documents in the media is the sole responsibility of data controllers and data processors, i.e. municipalities, regions, the City of Prague or its administrative districts, or possibly also the responsibility of individuals that have acquainted themselves with the personal data and that are mentioned in the concrete provisions of the aforementioned laws.
Example of possible anonymisation:
RESOLUTION No. ..................... of date ........................
FROM A PUBLIC SESSION OF THE COUNCIL OF THE TOWN OF ..............
NB: The document is published in an amended version on the grounds of compliance with requirements regarding the commensurate extent of published personal data pursuant to Act No. 101/2000 Coll., on the protection of personal data, as amended.
At its session the town council of .........adopted the following resolution:
At the proposal (of someone) the council APPROVED the sale of municipal land (the intention had already been declared and published): building parcel no. ............, built-up area and courtyard measuring ......m2, in the municipality of ............, cadastral district of ..........;
the land is the site of residential building no. 40 in .........street in the municipality of ............
In accordance with Articles 16, 17 and 95 of Act No. 128/2000 Coll., on municipalities, the personal data of the buyers can be viewed in a record in the municipal authority (or the relevant provisions of the act on the city of Prague or regions are specified).
the purchase price is CZK ....../m2, making a total of CZK ............
plus administrative fees, all payable upon the signing of the purchase contract.
votes in favour: 10 votes against: 0 abstentions: 1
In certain cases it is admissible to state only the buyers’ initials without giving a detailed address (i.e. giving just a municipal district or street). In these cases, however, one should make allowance for the size of the municipality, where in smaller municipalities mere initials and a street name might not be sufficiently anonymous.
Data do not need to be anonymised if the buyer is a legal person.
Local (or authorised) citizens can thus obtain, e.g. from the internet, sufficient information about the sale of a particular piece of land; if they are interested in the name of the buyer, they have a statutory right to view the original written materials stored at the relevant authority. The fact that in some cases it requires an effort to obtain personal data is one aspect of the protection of such data.
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