CZECH OFFICIALS RESTRICT PERSONAL DATA;RULES TO CONTROL INFORMATION GIVEN FOR PRIVATE SECTOR'S USE

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[prague] The use and distribution of personal data about Czech Republic residents will be controlled by a new arm of the government.

A two- or three-person department is being established to control what information the government may release to the private sector. This department will be managed by the Council of Ministers, an unofficial body of the Czech Parliament.

The issue of personal data protection arose in late 1992, when the Ministry of the Interior sold data to Procter & Gamble Co. about women who recently had given birth.

ONE PROPOSAL REJECTED

Late last year, government officials announced the intention to establish a new inspection department that would control the use and distribution of personal data.

The Ministry of Economy originally wanted the government to establish an independent body for the protection of personal data, said Miroslava Matousova, director of the Department of State Information Systems in the Czech Ministry of Economy.

The Council of Ministers rejected this proposal, opting for the smaller body, which is now writing guidelines expected to be announced sometime this year.

"The problem didn't require legislative action at the moment, given that Parliament is overburdened with other pieces of legislation, so the first step is to establish this small department," Mrs. Matousova explained.

A revision of the Ministry of Economy's proposal may eventually be passed, the contents of which will be in line with European Union guidelines.

Advertising industry insiders believe the ministry's proposal was shelved partly due to the upcoming June elections. The issue of protection of personal data is likely to be included in at least one major party platform.

In 1992, P&G used information obtained from government records for a direct marketing campaign to promote its Pampers and Always brands.

`AN INTERNAL ISSUE'

"Activities like this will be under the supervision of this small department, which will control availability of information, whether it's free or for sale," Mrs. Matousova said.

Claude Papas, P&G marketing manager for the Czech Republic, said, "The people who gave the authorization in the Ministry of the Interior [to sell the databases] exceeded their responsibilities. There was an internal issue within the ministry...We used the data, and when we knew about the issue we stopped using the data and actually returned it to the ministry."

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