Joint Statement of GDI and ALPE Foundation

Last week several facts of disclosure of personal information of public officials and individuals made by different politicians took place. These facts were of a different nature. On one occasion, the Prime Minister of Georgia made a statement related to the health of the Chairman of the Supreme Court of Georgia. Later on, Head of the Legal Committee of the Parliament of Georgia, Mr. Vakhtang Khmaladze, made a clarification on the compliance of the above-mentioned statement with the legislation. According to this clarification, “when it comes to the high-ranking officials, the society has a right to have information about their state of health”.

Information of the state of health of the citizen was also disseminated by Ms. Eka Beselia, Head of the Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee of the Parliament of Georgia. E. Beselia linked the information published in the local media outlet and the question of a journalist towards the Prime Minister to the fact of the refusal of financial aid by local self-governance bodies to the family member of the mentioned journalist.

In order to avoid misinformation of the population on the existing legislative guarantees related to the protection of the personal data, we believe it is essential to discuss briefly Georgian legislation related to this very issue.

Personal data is protected by the Constitution of Georgia, namely, section 2, Article 41 states: “The information existing on official records pertaining to individual’s health, his/her financial or other private matters, shall not be accessible to anyone without the consent of the individual in question, except in the cases determined by the law, when it is necessary to ensure the state security or public safety, for the protection of health, rights and freedoms of others”.

This right is also protected by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and Article 17 of the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The right guaranteed by the Constitution is regulated in several national legal acts as well.

As already stated above, personal data covers any information of individual’s finances, health or other private matters. Protection of such information is regulated by different legislative acts, such as following: General Administrative Code of Georgia (protection of personal data), Tax Code (protection of tax secret), Law on Personal Data Protection (protection of personal data and special categories of data), Law of Patient Rights (protection of health information) etc.

According to the Article 44 of the General Administrative Code of Georgia “A public agency shall not disclose any personal data of an individual, without his/her consent or – in cases prescribed by the law – without substantiated court decision, except for the personal data of the officials (candidacies for the official positions)”. Worth mentioning is the fact that based on the above stated Article, population can receive information on personal data of officials as well as of the candidacies for the official positions. Persons less acquainted with the legislation can have an impression, that health information of the high-ranking officials (as well as the candidacies for these high positions) can be open for public, while it is in no way so.

The notion of personal data (which according to the law can be accessible to anyone) is defined by the Law of Georgia on Protection of Personal Data and is classified as any information related to either identified or identifiable individual. An individual is deemed identifiable in case when his/her direct or indirect identification is possible based on his/her identification number, or his/her physical, physiological, psychological, economical, cultural or social criteria.

Simultaneously, the same law defines the notion of “special categories of data” as different and independent from the concept of “personal data”. This notion includes information related to the state of health of an individual, while Article 6 of the mentioned law prohibits making public special category of data without written consent of the subject of such data.

Therefore, unequivocal is the fact that mentioned officials did not have a right to disclose information on the state of health of persons without clear consent from the latter. Georgian legislation does not provide for making such information accessible and public even in those cases, when it is related to the high-ranking officials. Particularly alarming is the case of disclosing information on an individual who applied to the local self-governance for the financial assistance and this very information became public.

Proceeding from all above stated, we would like to address the politicians mentioned to refrain from making such statements in the future in order to avoid abuse of personal data as well as violation of rights due to misinterpretation of Georgian legislation.