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Czech Education Ministry faces CZK 10 million fine over leak of Romani students' private data

Prague, 11.11.2011 20:01, (ROMEA)

A list of Romani scholarship recipients including sensitive personal data showed up recently on the Czech Education Ministry's website. The ministry removed the list after Czech Television reported on the case earlier this week. Czech Education Minister Josef Dobeš (Public Affairs - VV) has filed criminal charges against an unidentified perpetrator over the information leak.

Czech Television reported that the list included the names and exact addresses of a total of 895 Romani pupils whose high school studies have been financially supported by the ministry. The incident means the ministry may have violated the law on the protection of personal data.

"What happened is an unforgivable mistake by a ministry bureaucrat. If the suspicions are confirmed that a specific staffer published the data, I will change the criminal charges against an unidentified perpetrator to charges against the person responsible," Dobeš said in a press release.

The opposition Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) responded to the news immediately. "We are calling on the Office for Personal Data Protection (Úřad na ochranu osobních údajů - ÚOOÚ) to investigate this case. This is a blow below the belt to all of the children who have been supported and is a flagrant error for the ministry to have committed," Czech Senator Marcel Chládek, the ČSSD Shadow Education Minister, said.

"If this leak is confirmed, it could be a very serious matter, because what was leaked was not just ordinary personal data, but sensitive data, in particular, data on ethnicity and nationality," ÚOOÚ chair Igor Němec told Czech Radio. His institution has already initiated an administrative proceedings against the ministry. "We sometimes encounter leaks of sensitive data from doctors, but we have never yet encountered a leak of data that is truly of a racial character," Němec said, adding: "The administrative proceedings will probably investigate violations of several sections of the law on personal data protection. Because this concerns sensitive data, the fine here could be as high as CZK 10 million." Němec said the matter is serious irrespective of whether the leak was intentional or simply a matter of criminal neglect.

The ministry's financial support is designed for socially disadvantaged children. A high school or technical college can use the money to cover the costs of accommodating a pupil in a dormitory, providing lunches in the school cafeteria, and purchasing school supplies and work clothing for practical training. "In this program, subsidies are provided to legal entities operating as high schools, conservatories, or technical colleges and registered with the ministry under Law No. 561/2004 Coll., on preschool, elementary, high school, technical college and other education (the School Act), as amended, for the provision of financing and material support for the education of Romani pupils and students at high schools, technical colleges and conservatories whose families would be caused financial difficulties by the costs associated with attending high school or technical college," the ministry's website says.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, Zdeněk Ryšavý, ryz, Czech Press Agency, Czech Radio, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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