FECL 05 (April 1992):

DATA PROTECTION SCANDAL

Eight Spanish businessmaen and an official in the labour ministry have been arrested on charge of illegal trafficking in the personal details of 21 million Spaniards, more than half the total population.

Most of the information comes from government ministries whose systems, experts say, can easily be tapped into with the right equipment. Several provincial savings banks, and at least two of the country's big banks, all so far unnamed, benefited from the services, which could become so sophisticated that its operators could offer selections tailored to their clients' needs.

Included in the information, police said, were details of "the lovers of certain gentlemen".

Some details were leaked from government departments, including the Treasury, the ministry of Work and Social Security and the National Institute of Statistics. Second hand computers brought from banks, which had not erased the information they contained, provided information about account balances and monthly salaries while details on motor vehicles were obtained by misusing procedures for seeking information from the General Traffic Administration. By cross-referencing names and particulars from these and other sources, intricate pictures emerged of medical and criminal records, love affairs and even sexual preferences.

Fears over the abuse of personal freedom have been further stoked by a new law enabling police to arrest anyone who cannot produce a national identity document and to enter homes without a warrant. Despite mass protests, the government argues that the measures serve to fight drug trafficking and terrorism.

J.J.

 

Sources: Independent, 19.2.92; Daily Telegraph, 22.1.92