GEOGRAPHIC DATA AS PERSONAL DATA IN FOUR EU MEMBER STATES
Keywords: Geographic data, data protection, privacy, topography, INSPIRE, open data
Abstract. The EU Directive 95/46/EC on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data aims at harmonising data protection legislation in the European Union. This should promote the free flow of products and services within the EU. This research found a wide variety of interpretations of the application of data protection legislation to geographic data. The variety was found among the different EU Member States, the different stakeholders and the different types of geographic data. In the Netherlands, the Data Protection Authority (DPA) states that panoramic images of streets are considered personal data. While Dutch case law judges that the data protection legislation does not apply if certain features are blurred and no link to an address is provided. The topographic datasets studied in the case studies do not contain personal data, according to the Dutch DPA, while the German DPA and the Belgian DPA judge that topographic maps of a large scale can contain personal data, and impose conditions on the processing of topographic maps. The UK DPA does consider this data outside of the scope of legal definition of personal data. The patchwork of differences in data protection legislation can be harmonised by using a traffic light model. This model focuses on the context in which the processing of the data takes place and has four categories of data: (1) sensitive personal data, (2) personal data, (3), data that can possibly lead to identification, and (4) non-personal data. For some geographic data, for example factual data that does not reveal sensitive information about a person, can be categorised in the third category giving room to opening up data under the INSPIRE Directive.