FECL 11 (December 1992/January 1993):


In a draft proposal for new trade regulations a committee of the Austrian Parliament legalizes list-broking with regard to personal data of buyers and prospective customers without permission of the persons concerned. Once the regulations enter into effect, any customer of a firm will face the fact that a vast number of enterprises will do business with his data and interests without his approval.
The draft proposal was adopted by the committee on 10 November 92 and is certain to be voted by parliament, despite the massive protest of data-protection experts.

Offers disguised as invoices, "immediate winnings" which later reveal themselves as orders, misleading advertising practices... Direct-mail activities are becoming ever less transparent. A growing number of people see "individual" computer-produced letters as an interference in their privacy.

In a widely remarked decision (90/12/0267) the Administrative Court (Verwaltungsgerichtshof) stated in February 1992 that many list broking activities were in breach of data protection legislation.

The ruling did not remain without effect: However, instead of reorganizing their advertising activities on a legal base along the lines of the court decision, the list broking firms launched a counter-attack by demanding for the very abolition of the respective provisions in the data protection law.

Obviously, intense lobbying had the desired effect on parliament.

Earlier experience of ARGE DATEN, an Austrian NGO striving for better protection of personal data, shows that list brokers do not bother a lot about data protection rights. The lifting of control of data-broking is likely to be seen as a passport to even more insolent advertising and marketing campaigns.

Uncontrolled data exchange of this kind must be seen as a massive encroachment on privacy. Consumer desires of perfectly private character all of a sudden become the target of dubious data haggling.

Othmar Brigar, ARGE DATEN


Contact: ARGE DATEN, Liechtensteinstr.94,A-1090 Wien, Tel: +43/1/3107740, Fax: +43/1/3103102.