In Turkey one of the recent hot topics is the referendum, the reason of which is the ‘Amendment of the Turkish Constitution’. As a result of the referendum held in Turkey on September 12th, 2010; the amendments of the Turkish Constitution have been accepted by the public. With these amendments; most articles of the Constitution, including the article 20 regarding the Privacy of Personal Life, have been changed. As per the amendment made to the article 20 of the Constitution, which is effective as a consequence of the referendum, a new paragraph has been added to this article.
According to this additional paragraph; everybody has a right to request the protection of personal data. This right covers the possibility to reach and to get information about personal data, to request the amendment or deletion of this data. Everybody would learn for which purposes these data are being used and regarding this article, personal data can only be used in cases prescribed by laws or with the owner’s explicit consent.
There are a lot of discussions about this additional paragraph whereby some people are for this amendment but some people are against it. According to the ones who are for this change, protection and privacy of personal data is a crucial matter and must absolutely take part in the Constitution. To get information, to reach all kinds of personal data is really one of the most important requirements of the democratic system. For citizens, it is a great privilege to learn for which purposes these data are being used or will be used.
On the contrary, others who are against this change claim that in the current Turkish Penal Code, there are provisions about the protection of personal data thus no special provision is required in the Constitution. Furthermore, for almost four years, ‘The Draft Law for Protection of Personal Data’ has been waiting to be enacted at the sub-committee of The Grand National Assembly of Turkey. With the perspective of legal systematic, this additional paragraph should be regulated in the Codes, but not in the Constitution. It is also pointed out that this additional regulation is not enough, not clear and has many vague sides. For example, there is not an independent institution to supervise the protection of personal data. It is not clear which institution will give the data and which institution will keep the data and who will supervise these institutions. Those are some topics that should be set forth in detail in a special code.
Most of the European countries have their own regulations about protection and privacy of personal data since 1970s. Therefore when it comes to Turkey, it is an important step to have such a regulation about the protection and privacy of personal data in the Constitution. Nevertheless, what has to be done is to clarify the details, regulate the vague parts in a special code and to implement these rules in the daily life. These rights must not only stay as a regulation in the Constitution but also should be assisted with an effective legal system in practice. With the help of a uniform legal approach, the vague sides of this regulation should be clarified in favor of the benefits of the Turkish citizens.