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Data protection issues are central in all citizens' lives - at work, in the manner in which with public authorities and private companies handle their personal data, in the health field, when they travel abroad or and even use the internet. The right to data protection is also the prerequisite for the exercise of other fundamental rights, such as the right to freedom of speech or conscience.

In January 28th 2007 the Council of Europe celebrated the Data Protection Day for the first time. This was an occasion for European citizens to become more aware of personal data protection and of what their rights and responsibilities are with respect to data protection.

Whilst data protection matters affect citizens on a daily basis, it is a well-known fact that European citizens are generally unfamiliar with data protection issues and unaware of their rights. More importantly, data protection does not usually feature in the schools' curricula. Data protection rights include the right to know what personal data is being held about them by companies and public authorities and the right to have that data corrected and in some cases deleted.

The aim of the Data Protection Day is to give European citizens the chance to understand what personal data is collected and processed about them and why, and what their rights are with respect to this processing. They should also be made aware of the risks inherent and associated with the illegal mishandling and unfair processing of their personal data.

The objective of the Data Protection Day is therefore to inform and educate the public at large as to their data protection rights.

In Gibraltar, the Data Protection Commissioner is taking advantage of the Data Protection Day to highlight his intention to carry out a survey on users of social networking websites such as Facebook, Bebo, MySpace etc. The aim of the survey is to establish awareness amongst young people as to the dangers of using these websites without the proper precautions. It is intended that various persons in the age groups 12-18 will participate in the survey which will be handled in an anonymous manner by the Commissioner. Results of the survey will be published in future and it is hoped that it will help raise awareness of privacy issues related to using social networking websites and also provide an insight as to how much care is taken by this age group when using these websites.

If you are interested in participating in this survey or would like to know more about any data protection matters please contact the Data Protection Commissioner.