The member States of the Council of Europe, signatory hereto,
Considering that the aim of the Council of Europe is to achieve greater unity between its
members, based in particular on respect for the rule of law, as well as human rights and
Considering that it is desirable to extend the safeguards for everyone's rights and
fundamental freedoms, and in particular the right to the respect for privacy, taking
account of the increasing flow across frontiers of personal data undergoing automatic
Reaffirming at the same time their commitment to freedom of information regardless of
Recognising that it is necessary to reconcile the fundamental values of the respect for
privacy and the free flow of information between peoples,
Have agreed as follows:
Chapter I General provisions
Article 1 Object and purpose
The purpose of this convention is to secure in the territory of each Party for every
individual, whatever his nationality or residence, respect for his rights and fundamental
freedoms, and in particular his right to privacy, with regard to automatic processing of
personal data relating to him ("data protection").
Article 2 Definitions
For the purposes of this convention:
- "personal data" means any information relating to an identified or
identifiable individual ("data subject");
- "automated data file" means any set of data undergoing automatic processing;
- "automatic processing" includes the following operations if carried out in
whole or in part by automated means: storage of data, carrying out of logical and/or
arithmetical operations on those data, their alteration, erasure, retrieval or
- "controller of the file" means the natural or legal person, public authority,
agency or any other body who is competent according to the national law to decide what
should be the purpose of the automated data file, which categories of personal data should
be stored and which operations should be applied to them.
Article 3 Scope
- The Parties undertake to apply this convention to automated personal data files and
automatic processing of personal data in the public and private sectors.
- Any State may, at the time of signature or when depositing its instrument of
ratification, acceptance, approval or accession, or at any later time, give notice by a
declaration addressed to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe:
- that it will not apply this convention to certain categories of automated personal data
files, a list of which will be deposited. In this list it shall not include, however,
categories of automated data files subject under its domestic law to data protection
provisions. Consequently, it shall amend this list by a new declaration whenever
additional categories of automated personal data files are subjected to data protection
provisions under its domestic law;
- that it will also apply this convention to information relating to groups of persons,
associations, foundations, companies, corporations and any other bodies consisting
directly or indirectly of individuals, whether or not such bodies possess legal
- that it will also apply this convention to personal data files which are not processed
- Any State which has extended the scope of this convention by any of the declarations
provided for in sub-paragraph 2.b or c above may give notice in the said declaration that
such extensions shall apply only to certain categories of personal data files, a list of
which will be deposited.
- Any Party which has excluded certain categories of automated personal data files by a
declaration provided for in sub-paragraph 2.a above may not claim the application of this
convention to such categories by a Party which has not excluded them.
- Likewise, a Party which has not made one or other of the extensions provided for in
sub-paragraphs 2.b and c above may not claim the application of this convention on these
points with respect to a Party which has made such extensions.
- The declarations provided for in paragraph 2 above shall take effect from the moment of
the entry into force of the convention with regard to the State which has made them if
they have been made at the time of signature or deposit of its instrument of ratification,
acceptance, approval or accession, or three months after their receipt by the Secretary
General of the Council of Europe if they have been made at any later time. These
declarations may be withdrawn, in whole or in part, by a notification addressed to the
Secretary General of the Council of Europe. Such withdrawals shall take effect three
months after the date of receipt of such notification.
Chapter II Basic principles for data protection
Article 4 Duties of the Parties
- Each Party shall take the necessary measures in its domestic law to give effect to the
basic principles for data protection set out in this chapter.
- These measures shall be taken at the latest at the time of entry into force of this
convention in respect of that Party.
Article 5 Quality of data
Personal data undergoing automatic processing shall be:
- obtained and processed fairly and lawfully;
- stored for specified and legitimate purposes and not used in a way incompatible with
- adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purposes for which they are
- accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date;
- preserved in a form which permits identification of the data subjects for no longer than
is required for the purpose for which those data are stored.
Article 6 Special categories of data
Personal data revealing racial origin, political opinions or religious or other
beliefs, as well as personal data concerning health or sexual life, may not be processed
automatically unless domestic law provides appropriate safeguards. The same shall apply to
personal data relating to criminal convictions.
Article 7 Data security
Appropriate security measures shall be taken for the protection of personal data stored
in automated data files against accidental or unauthorised destruction or accidental loss
as well as against unauthorised access, alteration or dissemination.
Article 8 Additional safeguards for the data subject
Any person shall be enabled:
- to establish the existence of an automated personal data file, its main purposes, as
well as the identity and habitual residence or principal place of business of the
controller of the file;
- to obtain at reasonable intervals and without excessive delay or expense confirmation of
whether personal data relating to him are stored in the automated data file as well as
communication to him of such data in an intelligible form;
- to obtain, as the case may be, rectification or erasure of such data if these have been
processed contrary to the provisions of domestic law giving effect to the basic principles
set out in Articles 5 and 6 of this convention;
- to have a remedy if a request for confirmation or, as the case may be, communication,
rectification or erasure as referred to in paragraphs b and c of this article is not
Article 9 Exceptions and restrictions
- No exception to the provisions of Articles 5, 6 and 8 of this convention shall be
allowed except within the limits defined in this article.
- Derogation from the provisions of Articles 5, 6 and 8 of this convention shall be
allowed when such derogation is provided for by the law of the Party and constitutes a
necessary measure in a democratic society in the interests of:
- protecting State security, public safety, the monetary interests of the State or the
suppression of criminal offences;
- protecting the data subject or the rights and freedoms of others.
- Restrictions on the exercise of the rights specified in Article 8, paragraphs b, c and
d, may be provided by law with respect to automated personal data files used for
statistics or for scientific research purposes when there is obviously no risk of an
infringement of the privacy of the data subjects.
Article 10 Sanctions and remedies
Each Party undertakes to establish appropriate sanctions and remedies for violations of
provisions of domestic law giving effect to the basic principles for data protection set
out in this chapter.
Article 11 Extended protection
None of the provisions of this chapter shall be interpreted as limiting or otherwise
affecting the possibility for a Party to grant data subjects a wider measure of protection
than that stipulated in this convention.
Chapter III Transborder data flows
Article 12 Transborder flows of personal data and domestic
- The following provisions shall apply to the transfer across national borders, by
whatever medium, of personal data undergoing automatic processing or collected with a view
to their being automatically processed.
- A Party shall not, for the sole purpose of the protection of privacy, prohibit or
subject to special authorisation transborder flows of personal data going to the territory
of another Party.
- Nevertheless, each Party shall be entitled to derogate from the provisions of paragraph
- insofar as its legislation includes specific regulations for certain categories of
personal data or of automated personal data files, because of the nature of those data or
those files, except where the regulations of the other Party provide an equivalent
- when the transfer is made from its territory to the territory of a non-Contracting State through
the intermediary of the territory of another Party, in order to avoid such transfers
resulting in circumvention of the legislation of the Party referred to at the beginning of
Chapter IV Mutual assistance
Article 13 Co-operation between Parties
- The Parties agree to render each other mutual assistance in order to implement this
- For that purpose:
- each Party shall designate one or more authorities, the name and address of each of
which it shall communicate to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe;
- each Party which has designated more than one authority shall specify in its
communication referred to in the previous sub-paragraph the competence of each authority.
- An authority designated by a Party shall at the request of an authority designated by
- furnish information on its law and administrative practice in the field of data
- take, in conformity with its domestic law and for the sole purpose of protection of
privacy, all appropriate measures for furnishing factual information relating to specific
automatic processing carried out in its territory, with the exception however of the
personal data being processed.
Article 14 Assistance to data subjects resident abroad
- Each Party shall assist any person resident abroad to exercise the rights conferred by
its domestic law giving effect to the principles set out in Article 8 of this convention.
- When such a person resides in the territory of another Party he shall be given the
option of submitting his request through the intermediary of the authority designated by
- The request for assistance shall contain all the necessary particulars, relating inter
- the name, address and any other relevant particulars identifying the person making the
- the automated personal data file to which the request pertains, or its controller;
- the purpose of the request.
Article 15 Safeguards concerning assistance rendered by
- An authority designated by a Party which has received information from an authority
designated by another Party either accompanying a request for assistance or in reply to
its own request for assistance shall not use that information for purposes other than
those specified in the request for assistance.
- Each Party shall see to it that the persons belonging to or acting on behalf of the
designated authority shall be bound by appropriate obligations of secrecy or
confidentiality with regard to that information.
- In no case may a designated authority be allowed to make under Article 14, paragraph 2,
a request for assistance on behalf of a data subject resident abroad, of its own accord
and without the express consent of the person concerned.
Article 16 Refusal of requests for assistance
A designated authority to which a request for assistance is addressed under Articles 13
or 14 of this convention may not refuse to comply with it unless:
- the request is not compatible with the powers in the field of data protection of the
authorities responsible for replying;
- the request does not comply with the provisions of this convention;
- compliance with the request would be incompatible with the sovereignty, security or
public policy (ordre public) of the Party by which it was designated, or with the rights
and fundamental freedoms of persons under the jurisdiction of that Party.
Article 17 Costs and procedures of assistance
- Mutual assistance which the Parties render each other under Article 13 and assistance
they render to data subjects abroad under Article 14 shall not give rise to the payment of
any costs or fees other than those incurred for experts and interpreters. The latter costs
or fees shall be borne by the Party which has designated the authority making the request
- The data subject may not be charged costs or fees in connection with the steps taken on
his behalf in the territory of another Party other than those lawfully payable by
residents of that Party.
- Other details concerning the assistance relating in particular to the forms and
procedures and the languages to be used, shall be established directly between the Parties
Chapter V Consultative Committee
Article 18 Composition of the committee
- A Consultative Committee shall be set up after the entry into force of this convention.
- Each Party shall appoint a representative to the committee and a deputy representative.
Any member State of the Council of Europe which is not a Party to the convention shall
have the right to be represented on the committee by an observer.
- The Consultative Committee may, by unanimous decision, invite any non-member State of
the Council of Europe which is not a Party to the convention to be represented by an
observer at a given meeting.
Article 19 Functions of the committee
The Consultative Committee:
- may make proposals with a view to facilitating or improving the application of the
- may make proposals for amendment of this convention in accordance with Article 21;
- shall formulate its opinion on any proposal for amendment of this convention which is
referred to it in accordance with Article 21, paragraph 3;
- may, at the request of a Party, express an opinion on any question concerning the
application of this convention.
Article 20 Procedure
- The Consultative Committee shall be convened by the Secretary General of the Council of
Europe. Its first meeting shall be held within twelve months of the entry into force of
this convention. It shall subsequently meet at least once every two years and in any case
when one-third of the representatives of the Parties request its convocation.
- A majority of representatives of the Parties shall constitute a quorum for a meeting of
the Consultative Committee.
- After each of its meetings, the Consultative Committee shall submit to the Committee of
Ministers of the Council of Europe a report on its work and on the functioning of the
- Subject to the provisions of this convention, the Consultative Committee shall draw up
its own Rules of Procedure.
Chapter VI Amendments
Article 21 Amendments
- Amendments to this convention may be proposed by a Party, the Committee of Ministers of
the Council of Europe or the Consultative Committee.
- Any proposal for amendment shall be communicated by the Secretary General of the Council
of Europe to the member States of the Council of Europe and to every non-member State
which has acceded to or has been invited to accede to this convention in accordance with
the provisions of Article 23.
- Moreover, any amendment proposed by a Party or the Committee of Ministers shall be
communicated to the Consultative Committee, which shall submit to the Committee of
Ministers its opinion on that proposed amendment.
- The Committee of Ministers shall consider the proposed amendment and any opinion
submitted by the Consultative Committee and may approve the amendment.
- The text of any amendment approved by the Committee of Ministers in accordance with
paragraph 4 of this article shall be forwarded to the Parties for acceptance.
- Any amendment approved in accordance with paragraph 4 of this article shall come into
force on the thirtieth day after all Parties have informed the Secretary General of their
Chapter VII Final clauses
Article 22 Entry into force
- This convention shall be open for signature by the member States of the Council of
Europe. It is subject to ratification, acceptance or approval. Instruments of
ratification, acceptance or approval shall be deposited with the Secretary General of the
Council of Europe.
- This convention shall enter into force on the first day of the month following the
expiration of a period of three months after the date on which five member States of the
Council of Europe have expressed their consent to be bound by the convention in accordance
with the provisions of the preceding paragraph.
- In respect of any member State which subsequently expresses its consent to be bound by
it, the convention shall enter into force on the first day of the month following the
expiration of a period of three months after the date of deposit of the instrument of
ratification, acceptance or approval.
Article 23 Accession by non-member States
- After the entry into force of this convention, the Committee of Ministers of the Council
of Europe may invite any State not a member of the Council of Europe to accede to this
convention by a decision taken by the majority provided for in Article 20.d of the Statute
of the Council of Europe and by the unanimous vote of the representatives of the
Contracting States entitled to sit on the committee.
- In respect of any acceding State, the convention shall enter into force on the first day
of the month following the expiration of a period of three months after the date of
deposit of the instrument of accession with the Secretary General of the Council of
Article 24 Territorial clause
- Any State may at the time of signature or when depositing its instrument of
ratification, acceptance, approval or accession, specify the territory or territories to
which this convention shall apply.
- Any State may at any later date, by a declaration addressed to the Secretary General of
the Council of Europe, extend the application of this convention to any other territory
specified in the declaration. In respect of such territory the convention shall enter into
force on the first day of the month following the expiration of a period of three months
after the date of receipt of such declaration by the Secretary General.
- Any declaration made under the two preceding paragraphs may, in respect of any territory
specified in such declaration, be withdrawn by a notification addressed to the Secretary
General. The withdrawal shall become effective on the first day of the month following the
expiration of a period of six months after the date of receipt of such notification by the
Article 25 Reservations
No reservation may be made in respect of the provisions of this convention.
Article 26 Denunciation
- Any Party may at any time denounce this convention by means of a notification addressed
to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.
- Such denunciation shall become effective on the first day of the month following the
expiration of a period of six months after the date of receipt of the notification by the
Article 27 Notifications
The Secretary General of the Council of Europe shall notify the member States of the
Council and any State which has acceded to this convention of:
- any signature;
- the deposit of any instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession;
- any date of entry into force of this convention in accordance with Articles 22, 23 and
- any other act, notification or communication relating to this convention.
In witness whereof the undersigned, being duly authorised thereto, have signed this
Done at Strasbourg, the 28th day of January 1981, in English and in French, both texts
being equally authoritative, in a single copy which shall remain deposited in the archives
of the Council of Europe. The Secretary General of the Council of Europe shall transmit
certified copies to each member State of the Council of Europe and to any State invited to
accede to this Convention.