by Peik J Strömsholm

In some earlier articles I wrote about the possibility for former members of cults to use data protection laws against misuse of sensitive information they have given the cult. I mentioned legislation in different countries and requested further information from the readership. Here follows a summary of the information obtained.

What is it all about? Basically, for many countries, you have the right to know what the cult has in its files about you and they can't legally collect information on "enemies" outside the organization, since such a register has no acceptable purpose. It's also relatively easy to file a complaint, since there are usually authorities to help you out with matters related to data protection laws.

Many times this means you have the right to "get back" any sensitive information you have given them, since they have to destroy their records when the register has no acceptable purpose = when you leave the cult.

The following references might prove a useful starting point, should any readers ever feel the need for legal protection when faced with information confidentially given to a cult.

The laws about data protection in some countries in Europe:

Henkil|rekisterilaki 30.4.1987/471
Datalagen, 1973:289 (SFS 1982:446) F|rordning om datasekretess (1982:480) Legislation in progress; a report SOU 1993, "En ny datalag" about a new law. Don't know if there's any new legislation after 1993.
Lov om personregistre m.m 1978:48
Lov om private registre 1987:622
A law on data protection, no info on the correct name, 1989:121
United Kingdom
A law on data protection, from 1984. Netizens have mentioned it is called the "Data Protection Act" and administered the "Data Protection Registrar". Netizens have also stated it applies to electronic records only.
Gesetz zum Schutz vor Missbrauch personenbezogener Daten bei der Datenverarbeitung, Bundesdatenschutzgesetzt 27.1.1977. A netizen wrote that 'the german "Datenschutzgesetz" ("Law for the protection of data") applies to all accumulated data. (i.e. electronic media as well as paper).
A law on data protection, no info on the name or ref, but it is from 1978. According to a few netizens it applies to computerized databases as well as other media, as is usual with these laws.
Loi no 78-17 du 6 janvier 1978 relative l'informatique, aux fichiers et aux libert`s
The Netherlands
Wet van 28 december 1988, Stb 665, houdende regels ter bescherming van de persoonlijke levenssfeer in verband met persoonsregistarties

These laws generally tend to follow international agreements, recommendations and conventions. The following may be mentioned:

CONVENTION for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data (the Council of Europe, Strasbourg 28th day of Jan 1981).

RECOMMENDATION of the Council concerning Guidelines governing the Protection of Privacy and Transborder Flows of Personal Data (OECD, Paris 23.8.1980).

AMENDED PROPOSAL for a Council Directive on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data (European Union, COM (92) 422 final - SYN 287 15.10.1992)

The information above is mainly from a few bills given by the Cabinet to the Parliament of Finland as a proposal for new laws, namely HE 46/1987, HE 311/1993. Some information on data protection in a few European countries can be found on the Web:

Many readers are probably interested in the situations in the States and perhaps in Canada. Regarding the States, "The Electronic Communications Privacy Act", more exactly sections title 18, section 2703-7, were mentioned in some thread relating to misuse of information. This could perhaps have some relevance, but I doubt it.

In general the USA, Canada and United Kingdom (with Common Law background) have far less protection for sensitive information than most European countries. One Canadian netizen even suggested that data protection laws probably can never be used at all for legal protection against cults, at least not under Canadian legislation.

Anyone who can correct or add to the legal or factual issues of the above information is encouraged to answer this posting. Please email me a copy at if you post to the newsgroup(s). Follow-ups preferably to alt.religion.scientology only, or at least with a trimmed newsgroups line, as a reply probably isn't relevant to all the crossposted newsgroups.

[posted & mailed], Student of Theology & Law Student at the U of Helsinki "For the extremes of ignorance are atheism and superstition, from which we must endeavour to keep." (Clement of Alexandria)